Pitt coach Jamie Dixon gets a roar out of the Petersen Events Center crowd when he inserts walk-on Nick Rivers into the game at the end of blowouts.
The 8,923 in attendance Tuesday night to watch a non-conference game against VMI let out their cheer with two minutes remaining in the first half .
No. 15 Pitt made quick work of VMI, beating the Keydets, 97-70, in a game that stopped being competitive before many fans settled into their seats. The Panthers led by 15 less than seven minutes into the contest and led by 24 at halftime.
Pitt's 57 first-half points broke a Petersen Events Center record for most in a half. The previous record was 55 against Houston Baptist in 2007.
The school record for points in a half is 69, set against Syracuse in '70.
The Panthers managed to set one school record by pulling down a 60 rebounds, besting the previous record of 59 that had been reached several times, most recently last season against North Florida. The Panthers had 35 rebounds by halftime Tuesday night.
"Pitt is as advertised," VMI coach Duggar Baucom said. "I thought they were very good,.
"When I think of Pitt, I think of toughness. And any time you get 60 rebounds and 22 of them be offensive rebounds, it makes it tough on opponents."
The only drama in the second half was whether the Panthers would reach the century mark for the first time this season, but two shots and a missed free throw in the final minute netted zero points as Dixon emptied his bench for a second time.
Five Pitt players scored in double figures. Ashton Gibbs made six 3-pointers and led the way with 20 points.
Nasir Robinson recorded his second consecutive double-double with 19 points and 14 rebounds. He notched his double-double by halftime after grabbing an offensive rebound and scoring at the buzzer.
"I thought Nasir played really well," Dixon said. "He played unselfish, and I thought he set the tone for the game."
Three other Pitt players scored in double figures. John Johnson set his career high by halftime and finished with 13 points. J.J. Moore added 16 and Dante Taylor 10.
While the Panthers set a single-game rebounding mark, they also continued their record-setting pace from 3-point range.The Panthers (8-1) entered the game third in NCAA Division I in 3-point shooting percentage (44.8).
Their 13-for-33 shooting from behind the line Tuesday lowered that a little bit, but it remains on pace to set the school record for accuracy over a season.
Before the season began, Gibbs was the only established 3-point threat. Now it appears Dixon has an arsenal of players who are capable of hurting opponents with the outside shot.
Johnson continued his torrid shooting pace, going 2 for 3 from 3-point range against VMI. He is 11 for 17 for the season and leads the Big East in 3-point shooting percentage.
Lamar Patterson is shooting 50 percent from behind the arc (11 for 22).
Moore, 4 for 6 Tuesday night, is shooting 46 percent (11 for 24) as is injured point guard Tray Woodall (16 for 35).
"We thought Lamar was going to be a good shooter," Dixon said. "We thought J.J. could be a good shooter. I don't know if we knew about the other guys.
"John Johnson has shot the ball well. I can't say I predicted that. I feel we're a good shooting team.
"We can put three guys on the floor at all times that shoot the ball pretty well."
The only glaring omission is perhaps the best 3-point shooter in school history. Gibbs was 6 for 15 against VMI and is 31 for74 (41 percent) for the season. He is a career 44 percent 3-point shooter and shot 49 percent last season.
With Gibbs playing point for the next month while Woodall recuperates, Dixon does not expect him to approach the percentages he shot last season.
"Given he'll be playing a lot of minutes at point in this stretch, he may not shoot as high a percentage," Dixon said.
"He has to defend and get other guys shots. He's going to make shots.
"He's got to do things every night even if the percentage isn't what he wants it to be."
NOTES -- VMI had given up 100 points to four of its first seven opponents. ... The Keydets were led by Jordan Weethee 's 18 points. ... The Panthers bench contributed 47 points. ... Starters Khem Birch and Cameron Wright combined for a total of four points and shot 2 for 7 from the field.
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1230. First Published December 7, 2011 5:00 AM