Panthers dismantle Kent State 79-64

Ronald Ramon and Aaron Gray combine for a total of 33 points to lead the Panthers in a decisive victory over Kent State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers defeated the 12th-seeded Golden Flashes 79-64

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Pittsburgh's Aaron Gray pounded Kent State inside and Ronald Ramon took care of things on the outside.

They were so unstoppable, they didn't miss a shot.

The fifth-seeded Panthers scored so easily and often they frayed the net at one end of the court and just about wore out the twine at the other.

Gray scored 17 and Ramon had 16 -- both shooting 6-of-6 from the field -- to lead a balanced attack as Pittsburgh made 67 percent of its shots, cruising to a 79-64 victory over the 12th-seeded Golden Flashes in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday.

Carl Krauser had 11 points and nine assists and Levon Kendall added 10 for the Panthers. The 7-foot, 270-pound Gray, who towered over the competition, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked five shots.

The Panthers (25-7) will face the winner of the Kansas-Bradley game in the second round of the Oakland Regional on Sunday.

Kent State (25-9) was unable to recreate the magic it had in 2002, when it knocked off the Panthers to advance to the regional finals. Kevin Warzynski scored 15 points to lead the Golden Flashes of the Mid-American Conference while Jay Youngblood and Omni Smith scored 10 each.

With scoring threats all over the court and a physical defense, Pittsburgh might have assembled the team it needs to get past the round of 16 in order to get the respect due.

The Panthers have won slightly more than 80 percent of their games the last five seasons, a winning percentage that trails just Duke, Gonzaga and Illinois. The Big East power has reached the benchmark strong programs strive for -- the round of 16 -- in three of the last four years and are in the NCAAs for a school-record fifth straight year.

Pittsburgh never trailed the Golden Flashes and a 23-5 run midway through the first half gave it a cushion -- a 20-point lead -- that lasted the rest of the game. The Panthers led 34-14 after making 13-of-18 shots and were ahead 40-27 at halftime behind 68 percent shooting.

Early in the second half, they made sure Kent State didn't get its hopes up for a comeback. Pittsburgh scored the first nine points after halftime and didn't allow a field goal for six-plus minutes, building a 56-31 lead.

The Golden Flashes were feisty enough to avoid an absolute rout, but they didn't have enough to make Pittsburgh sweat as it made 66.7 percent of its shots after halftime.

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