PITTSBURGH (AP)—Florida State sped up a Pitt team know for its patience and persistence, and look what happened. The Seminoles also tried taking away Panthers star Aaron Gray, and that didn’t work out well, either.
Pittsburgh went on a pivotal 13-0 run behind the outside shooting of Ronald Ramon and Antonio Graves not long after Florida State star Al Thornton got into foul trouble in the first half, and the No. 3 Panthers beat the previously unbeaten Seminoles at their own game by winning 88-66 Friday night.
“They kind of gave us a clinic in ball movement, executing and setting screens,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “We’ll be able to pick up a lot of things about how to do things correctly. They were able to expose a lot of our weaknesses. … It was a great night by a great team.”
Graves scored 17 points and Ramon came off the bench for 12, all on 3-pointers, as the Panthers (6-0) showed they don’t always have to lean on 7-foot star Aaron Gray to win—and that they can play an uptempo game, and play it well.
“We knew they were going to try to run the ball and we were ready for it,” Ramon said.
Gray, averaging 17.6 points and 10.6 rebounds before the game, was limited to nine points in 25 minutes but it hardly mattered as Pitt opened a 23-point lead in the first half and cruised after that.
“They were double or triple teaming him, and that allowed the rest of us to make plays,” said Mike Cook, who scored 15 points.
Thornton, the Seminoles’ top scorer with a 16.0 average, played only eight minutes before halftime after drawing his second foul with 11:37 remaining and Florida State (4-1) down 21-15. Pitt began pulling away not long after that, finishing off the 13-point run with a Ramon 3-pointer that made it 43-25.
“We wanted to show we could go out and get stops on defense against them— people kept saying this was going to be a test for us, and we were ready from the start,” Graves said. “We wanted to keep their shooting under 40 percent, and we did that in the first half (39.1 percent) and that’s what got us the big lead.”
Pitt’s bench outscored Florida State’s 24-4 in the first half and 41-5 overall, with three Pitt backups scoring in double figures.
“We have a great group here, and if you try to take away one of us, that means somebody is going to be open,” Graves said. “All of us are capable of having a big night on any night.”
The championship game of the Colonial Athletic Association Classic had all but gotten away from the Seminoles by the time Thornton returned to start the second half, with Pitt up 50-30. Pitt upped the lead to 32 points at 69-37 behind a balanced offense in which five players scored in double figures, including backup forwards Tyrell Biggs with 11 and Sam Young with 10. The Panthers shot 62.5 percent, 35 of 56.
“It’s a coach’s dream to have a team that shares the ball the way they do,” Hamilton said. “It can be difficult to get kids to buy into that today.”
Toney Douglas scored 21 for Florida State, with Thornton getting all but two of his 16 points in the second half. Uche Echefu added 13 points.
The Pitt loss began a rugged stretch for Florida State, which plays two other Top 10 teams in the next nine days—No. 7 Wisconsin and No. 1 Florida.
“We won’t have too long to have a pity party,” Hamilton said.
Florida State and Pitt both won three home games in the Colonial Classic before Friday night’s game. Pitt had a much tougher time in putting away Oakland 66-55 on Sunday than it did with Florida State, which is 1-8 against the Panthers.
Pitt is 6-0 for the fifth consecutive season and has won 42 of 43 against nonconference opponents since moving into the Petersen Events Center in 2002.