Pitt 81, St. John's 57

The Pitt men's basketball team ahs had immense success at Madison Square Garden this decade, and that continued with a 81-57 blowout against St. John's Wednesday night at the legendery venue in New York City.

Junior forward Sam Young led the No. 13 Panthers (16-3, 4-2 in the Big East) with 26 points in the dominant win after the loss last Saturday at Cincinnati.

"We were coming off a game where we didn't play well, and we righted ourselves,'' Young said. "That was pretty big. Now, we have to maintain it.'' Young was a solid 10-for-17 from the field, including 3-for-6 from 3-point range. And he displayed the athleticism that has him among the Big East leaders in scoring at about 20 points per game. And that was huge after Pitt's last game.

"I think it was, for us, a great sign," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. "We came off a loss and responded in a lot of good ways. It was something we've done in the past, and I was impressed with our guys. It was just one of those days that we were hitting shots.

"Our execution was better, and we did a good job of moving the ball. (But) we are nowhere near where we need to be, and we know that. We can improve as a group. We're playing four freshmen of our eight guys. I look at it as an opportunity. The learning curve is greater for freshmen.''

Ronald Ramon -- one of five New York-area natives with the Panthers -- added 16 points and five assists for Pitt, which improved to 19-8 at Madison Square Garden since the 2000-01 season. Most of the victories came in the Big East tournament, where the Panthers have reached the title game in six of the past seven seasons. However, three of the losses were to St. John's.

"It's always emotional to play at Madison Square Garden,'' Ramon said. "The young guys were ready and the seniors, we've provided some leadership, and it all came together tonight.''

Freshman DeJuan Blair stayed out of foul trouble and added 10 points and eight rebounds for Pitt. Anthony Mason Jr. had a career-high 29 points on 12-for-17 shooting for the Red Storm (7-10, 1-5), who have lost four straight and six of seven. The junior forward's previous best was 22 twice, the last time against Seton Hall last season.

St. John's scored the first four points of the second half to get within 38-31, but the Panthers went on a 9-0 run and the rout was on as the Red Storm never got closer than 12 points the rest of the way. Pitt's biggest lead was 77-50.

St. John's had not shot better than 40 percent from the field in any of its last five losses and it shattered that mark in the first half, going 12-for-23 (52.2 percent). But the Panthers managed to shoot 48.3 percent (14-for-29) to take a 38-27 lead.

The second half was more like it has been for the two teams this season. The Panthers, who came into the game fourth in the Big East from the field at 46.9 percent, shot 61.5 percent in the second half (16-for-26).

The Red Storm, who were 14th in the 16-team league at 42.5 percent, were 12-for-28 from the field in the second half (42.9 percent).

A 3-pointer by Young gave the Panthers a 21-10 lead midway through the first half. Pitt's biggest lead of the half was 33-20 with 3:21 left when redshirt freshman forward Gilbert Brown dunked an alley-oop pass from senior guard Keith Benjamin.

Mason scored the last five points of a 7-0 run that brought the Red Storm within 33-27, but Young dunked on a drive and Benjamin hit a trey that gave Pitt a 38-27 halftime lead.

Mason had 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting in the first half to keep St. John's close. Benjamin added nine points for Pitt, while Brown had seven and Biggs had five points with five rebounds.

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