NCAA BK

South Carolina State falls to No. 15 Pitt 69-55

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PITTSBURGH (AP)

For the first half of Saturday's game against No. 15 Pittsburgh, South Carolina State senior Brandon Riley was on a roll. In the second half, he couldn't hit one of the easiest shots on the floor.

Riley had 21 points, but missed layups - including six alone by Riley - hurt the Bulldogs during a 69-55 loss at the Petersen Events Center.

Lamar Patterson tied a career high with 16 points for Pittsburgh (10-1), which has won eighth straight games. Ashton Gibbs scored 14, and Talib Zanna added 12 points and 14 rebounds.

Khalif Toombs scored 16 for the Bulldogs (4-7), while Shaquil Barber finished with 12.

Riley had 17 points in the first half on 6-of-7 shooting, including 3 for 4 from long range. Riley's 3-pointer with 6:04 left gave SCSU a 20-18 lead and the Bulldogs trailed by five at halftime.

Riley made a jumper with 17:21 remaining in the game to trim Pitt's lead to 35-34, but the senior wouldn't score again until he hit another jumper with 7:08 left, making just two of his 10 second-half shots while being hounded by Gibbs.

''It's very frustrating,'' Riley said. ''Being a senior, those are layups I've been making for four years. To miss those six layups, I come to think what if I would have made them? How would the game have turned out?''

Patterson led the Panthers on a 13-3 run to pull away. The sophomore converted a putback, then rolled in an acrobatic layup as Pitt built a 48-37 lead. The Bulldogs never got closer than nine the rest of the way.

South Carolina State shot well beyond the arc, going 8 for 14 from 3-pointer range. But Pitt's size - even without 6-foot-9 freshman Khem Birch, who left the team for personal reasons Friday night - was too much. Pitt outrebounded SCSU 41-29 and scored 36 points in the paint.

''They did a great job of getting second tips on us,'' Bulldogs coach Tim Carter said. ''Their length really hurt us. We knew we had to hit shots. When you go up against guys who are 6-10, 6-11 and your guys are 6-7, 6-8, it's tough to score inside.''

Pitt turned it over four times in the first eight minutes and didn't have any real control until Gibbs fueled a 9-0 surge that gave Pitt a 27-20 lead. The Bulldogs kept hanging around, and the Panthers needed a follow dunk by freshman Malcolm Gilbert just before the buzzer to take a 31-26 lead at the half.

The Panthers' game-deciding run was more of a slow jog, with John Johnson's two free throws getting Pitt started before Patterson went to work. Johnson later added a layup, JJ Moore hit a putback and Zanna tipped in a miss.

By the time Gibbs drilled a pullup jumper to make it 50-39, the Panthers were safe though their uneven performance will give them plenty to work on over the next two weeks before their Big East opener against Cincinnati on New Year's Day.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon wasn't thrilled with his team's poor shooting. The Panthers came in making nearly 44 percent of their 3-point attempts, good enough for sixth in the country. They made just 5 of 23 against South Carolina State's unorthodox zone defense.

''We hadn't seen them run a 1-2-2,'' Dixon said. ''They really dared us to shoot and to be honest we really didn't shoot it well.''

Tagged: South Carolina, South Carolina State, Pittsburgh, Ashton Gibbs, Lamar Patterson, Brandon Riley

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