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Gray, Pittsburgh too much for Connecticut

Jan 17, 2007 - 4:25 AM PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- Aaron Gray and Pittsburgh had a bit too much experience for Connecticut.

A 7-foot senior, Gray collected 22 points, 19 rebounds and four blocks to lead the sixth-ranked Panthers to a 63-54 Big East Conference triumph over the young Huskies.

Junior guard Ronald Ramon made four 3-pointers and scored 17 points for Pittsburgh (17-2, 5-0 Big East), which won its seventh straight game and remained the only team unbeaten in the league.

The Panthers improved to 12-0 at home this season and to 76-6 all-time at the Petersen Events Center.

"Any time a guy gets 22 and 19, you can't ignore it," Pitt forward Levon Kendall said of Gray's performance. "You can't down play that. He's done that all year and he's going have to continue to do that for us to be successful."

Connecticut (13-4, 2-3) held a 33-32 lead before Gray nailed a jumper with 11:38 to play, triggering a 16-2 run.

Gray had six points and Ramon five during the burst, which Ramon ended with a pair of free throws for a 48-35 lead with 4:46 to play.

"My teammates have more confidence in me this year and they're looking for me," Ramon said. "They need me to make some shots and I just try to step up."

Gray made 4-of-4 shots from the field in the second half after missing seven of 12 shots in the first half.

He's a go-to guy. Tonight he was clearly the difference in the game," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said of Gray. "He is a difference maker. It's good to have an 'out guy' to go to like him."

"The best way I contribute to this team is with my rebounding," Gray said. "I get a lot of rebounds because my teammates do a good job blocking out. I take it as a personal challenge playing guys my size or bigger. They are big guys and they play like big guys, which is exciting for me."

UConn, which slipped out of the rankings for the first time since 2003, went nearly eight minutes without a basket until Doug Wiggins' jumper made it 48-37 with 4:12 left.

Jeff Adrian scored 13 points to pace the Huskies, who made just 10-of-23 free throws. Adrian had a terrible night from the line, sinking just 3-of-10 attempts. The Huskies shot just 36 percent (21-of-59) from the field, including an anemic 15 percent (2-of-13) from the arc.

"They physically manhandled us and took us out of our offense," Calhoun said. "It's probably the best (team) in league. They are physical and they run their offense exceptionally well. Gray is an improved player. We had no answer for him.

"I said they were the best team (in the Big East) in the preseason and they did nothing tonight to disprove that. I like their team. I think they can get to Atlanta."

The Panthers connected on 44 percent (20-of-45) from the floor - 55 percent (6-of-11) on 3-pointers - and 71 percent (17-of-24) from the line.

Our defense was there for 40 minutes. It was a very good win for us," Pitt coach Jaime Dixon said. "I thought our offense got better as the game went on. Aaron did a very good job on the boards.

"We did a better job of executing our offense in the second half and got good looks. Sixty-seven percent in the second half is pretty good against a team that holds other teams to field-goal shooting in the thirties."