MILWAUKEE – No. 3 Pitt used a six-minute first-half run to pull away from No. 14 seed Oakland on the way to an 89-66 rout in a West Region game at Bradley Center on Friday afternoon.
In a first round littered with early upsets, Pitt posted its highest NCAA Tournament score in 22 years and left little suspense while advancing to the second round for the eighth time in the past nine years.
Pitt (25-8) will play No. 6 seed Xavier (24-8), a 65-54 winner over Minnesota, at an undetermined time on Sunday in a West Region second-round game at Bradley Center. It is a rematch of last year’s Sweet 16 game, a 60-55 Pitt victory at Boston.
One game after Pitt scored a season-low 45 points against Notre Dame in the Big East quarterfinals, the Panthers posted their highest score in regulation of the season.
A season-high six players scored in double figures for Pitt – and Ashton Gibbs wasn’t one of them. The Panthers won for the ninth time in their past 11 games and snapped Oakland’s 11-game winning streak.
Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown each scored 17 points for the Panthers. Nasir Robinson (13), Brad Wanamaker (13), Gary McGhee (12) and Travon Woodall (10) also scored in double figures for Pitt, which shot 53 percent from the floor.
It was Pitt’s most prolific scoring NCAA Tournament game since a 108-90 victory over Eastern Michigan in the 1988 first round.
Junior center Keith Benson, the Summit League Player of the Year, paced Oakland (27-8) with 28 points and nine rebounds. Freshman guard Ledrick Eackles added17.
Pitt trailed Oakland for much of the first half before using a 19-2 run to take control of the game. The Panthers led 39-26 at halftime and Oakland never got closer than 12 points the entire second half. Pitt pushed the lead to 51-31 with 15:25 to play.