NCAA BK

Albany (NY) 56, Pittsburgh 89

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PITTSBURGH (AP)

Albany coach Will Brown spent days leading up to his team's season-opener against No. 10 Pittsburgh trying to come up with ways to stop star guard Ashton Gibbs.

Turns out, the Great Danes probably should have spent a little more time on Travon Woodall.

The junior poured in a career-high 25 points as the Panthers rolled to an 89-56 victory.

''We thought if we could do a decent job on Gibbs we'd be OK because I thought Pitt would need time to find a second scorer,'' Brown said. ''I thought it might be (Lamar) Patterson. It might be Woodall.''

Gerardo Suero led Albany with 17 points and Logan Aronhalt added 13 points and five rebounds, but the Great Danes struggled defensively falling behind by 10 points in the game's first 5 minutes and never recovering.

''You come in and play a team like Pitt and give up 47 points in a half, the game is over because you're not going to match them point wise,'' Brown said.

Woodall did his best Gibbs impression, making 5 of 7 3-pointers to take some of the heat off Gibbs as Pitt remained unbeaten in nine season openers under coach Jamie Dixon.

''Halfway through that game I thought Gibbs was wearing (Woodall's number) the way Woodall shot the ball,'' Brown said.

Woodall managed to get by even without getting to the Petersen Events Center as early as he'd like. He guessed he was about 30 minutes late thanks to some shoddy driving by teammate Dante Taylor.

Once in the building, however, Woodall made up for lost time. He shot 9 of 13 from the field to go with 10 assists and six rebounds.

''I felt good, I'm working on something, working on my shot,'' Woodall said. ''I know a lot of guys will be keying on Ashton.''

The Great Danes included.

Woodall's previous career high was 19 against Wichita State two years ago as a freshman. He's spent much of the last two seasons trying to get the ball to his more heralded teammates.

Yet the Panthers are rebuilding a bit in the frontcourt, meaning they'll have to rely on Woodall and Gibbs if they want to repeat as Big East regular-season champions.

The duo appears up to the task, looking for each other regularly on a night when Pitt's 15th straight season opening win was never in doubt.

When Woodall and Gibbs weren't shooting, they were setting each other up. Gibbs finished with 10 assists while Gibbs had a career-high with seven, consistently finding open teammates whenever the Great Danes threw two or sometimes three defenders in his path.

''I was trying to create for myself, create for others as well,'' Gibbs said. ''At the end of the day I was penetrating and I passed the ball. It was nothing out of the ordinary and my teammates knocked down shots.''

Pitt cruised despite playing without sophomore forward J.J. Moore, who was suspended one game for playing in an unsupervised summer league game.

For one game, the Panthers didn't need him.

''We came out on offense I thought very good for a first game,'' Dixon said.

The Great Danes were coming off a breakthrough season under Brown. Albany went 16-16, a nine-win improvement off the season before. The Great Danes return four starters and are picked to finish fourth in the American East.

Yet they have been hit with injuries during preseason and it showed. Forward Luke Devlin didn't play for four months after undergoing back surgery and had just two points and two rebounds in 26 minutes. Center John Puk had an infection in his shin earlier in the week and went scoreless in 13 minutes.

''Those two guys are key to what we need to do,'' Brown said. ''We got rattled early because I thought our perimeter guys would be fine. But it's the opener and they don't lose in this building.''

Tagged: Brown, McNeese State, Albany (NY), Pittsburgh, Will Brown, Ashton Gibbs, Tray Woodall

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