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Pitt uses second half surge to crush Lafayette

Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) - Keith Benjamin poured in 20 points and Pittsburgh avenged its first loss of the season, as the 13th-ranked Panthers dominated the second half and pounded the Lafayette Leopards, 96-75.

Tyrell Biggs scored a career-high 19 points on 9-for-11 shooting for Pitt (12-1), improving to 9-0 at home with its 11th consecutive win as the host, dating back to last season. Sam Young added another 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Ronald Ramon notched a double-double, dishing out 10 assists to go with 11 points.

The Panthers have come away victorious in 28 straight home games against non- conference foes, tying a Petersen Events Center record that was set from Nov. 23, 2003 to Jan. 2, 2005. Remarkably, Pitt has won 77 of its last 78 such matchups.

Matt Betley led the way with 20 points for the Leopards (8-5), shooting a perfect 6-for-6 from three-point range. As a team, Lafayette's 17 buckets from beyond-the-arc were the most ever allowed by Pittsburgh in a single game. Bilal Abdullah contributed 14 points, and Andrew Brown and Paul Cummins each scored 11, as the Leopards dropped back-to-back contests.

Trailing by 2 points at the break, the Panthers owned the second half, out- scoring the Leopards 57-34.

Pitt took a commanding lead with a 15-2 run. Biggs did it all during the streak, scoring four points while handing out an assist, grabbing an offensive board, swatting a shot and nabbing a steal. With 8:47 to go in the game, the Panthers opened up a 75-58 lead.

Shortly thereafter, a 17-3 Pittsburgh burst put the game away. Gilbert Brown slammed the door shut, nailing a three-pointer with 1:54 left to finish the run and give the Panthers a more than comfortable 93-67 advantage.

"Tonight was everything that I could have hoped for," gushed Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon. "We are a new team, and I thought we really played well tonight, and got better as the game progressed."

The teams started the game by trading off scoring streaks. Trailing 10-6, Lafayette used an 8-0 run to take control. A layup by Marek Koltun capped the burst, with the Leopards leading 14-10 with 14:26 remaining in the opening half.

The Panthers immediately responded with an 8-0 run of their own. Gilbert Brown hit a layup to finish the streak with 11:44 to play, putting Pitt back on top, 18-14.

Lafayette would not go away, though. The Leopards came right back, reeling off a 12-2 burst that featured four buckets from beyond-the-arc. Cummins was good for six points during the run, and Lafayette took a 26-20 lead with 9:54 left in the half.

The Leopards connected on 11-of-18 three-pointers in the first half, earning them a 41-39 advantage heading into the locker rooms.

At the start of the second half, Pitt gave Lafayette a taste of its own medicine, draining three-pointers that in turn opened up the low-post game, where the Panthers used their size advantage to dominate. Pittsburgh beat up on the Leopards down low, out-scoring them 36-12 in the paint.

"I think Pitt came out and executed right out of the gate in the second half," explained Lafayette head coach Fran O'Hanlon. "They ran some good plays and shot the ball well, and we simply became overwhelmed. We lost our poise, and the bottom line is that you can't do that against a team like Pitt on their home court."

Game Notes

Pitt has won 16 of 22 overall meetings with Lafayette, including the last matchup, a 67-66 nail-biter on December 22, 1997...The Panthers are without two starters due to injury: point guard Levance Fields (fractured left foot, out 8-12 weeks) and small forward Mike Cook (torn ACL, out for season); Fields went down in last game's loss to Dayton, while Cook was hurt in the OT win against Duke...Despite just one home game throughout all of December, Pitt takes to the road for its next two contests, versus Villanova and South Florida...The Leopards are just the third opponent this season to score over 70 points in a game against the Panthers.

01/02 22:59:50 ET