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No. 3 Pitt withstands Auburn comeback

Dec 3, 2006 - 10:27 PM AUBURN, Alabama (Ticker) -- Pittsburgh's non-conference winning streak survived a rough challenge.

Aaron Gray scored 16 points and the third-ranked Panthers held off an Auburn comeback to post a 74-66 victory.

A Wooden Award candidate, the 7-foot Gray had the biggest basket of the game, rebounding a missed foul shot and scoring inside for a 70-65 lead with 1:02 to play. Pittsburgh held on from there for its 19th straight non-league victory.

"I think I had four fouls at that point but I just wanted to keep playing hard," Gray said. "It was a very crucial point in the game. I think we were up by three. I tried to give my team a little energy. They kind of figured it out in the second half and I wasn't very effective."

The Panthers (8-0) were on the way to a runaway win, opening a 14-point lead midway through the second half on Ronald Ramon's 3-pointer.

Trailing, 66-53, Auburn went to a full-court press and rattled Pittsburgh, running off 10 consecutive points to pull within 66-63 with 2:29 left. The Panthers managed just one field goal in over eight minutes.

"They went a long time without scoring," Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said. "We pressured them and ... we got into a little bit of a flow. We just couldn't get back to get the lead. Sometimes that is the hardest thing to do - being able to come back and take the lead."

A floater by Ramon stopped the spurt and Gray's follow shot built the lead back to five before both teams struggled at the free-throw line the rest of the way.

Antonio Graves scored 14 points for Pitt, but he and Graves combined for just one field goal in the second half after splitting 24 points in the opening 20 minutes.

The Panthers struggled with their shooting in the second half. After hitting at a 60-percent clip in the opening 20 minutes, they were limited to 36 percent (11-of-31) after the break.

"They were really stepping it up defensively and we weren't doing a good enough job getting open," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. "We had to remember we were in SEC country and we were playing a very good team, a very athletic team. They got out there and pressured us and made it a little harder getting a catch."

Korvotney Barber scored 19 points to pace Auburn (6-3), which shot 42 percent (25-of-60) but made just 3-of-20 shots from the arc and 13-of-23 at the stripe.

Freshman Josh Dollard had a strong game inside for the Tigers with 14 points and 12 rebounds, but Pitt still held a 46-34 edge on the glass.

"Aaron Gray is an All-American," Dollard said. "Coach told us all week that he is a big body but he is slow. We tried to use our quickness to get around him and outwork him. Luckily we got a couple of putbacks and rebounds. We just weren't able to pull it out."






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