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Pittsburgh helps coach Dixon honor sister with a victory

WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) -- The first victory of what is expected to
be a special season at Pittsburgh was overshadowed by a postgame
ceremony.

About 30 minutes after the fourth-ranked Panthers beat Western
Michigan 86-67 on Sunday in the inaugural Maggie Dixon Classic, the
woman for whom the event is named was honored.

Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon, the older brother of Maggie,
helped create the doubleheader following her death in April at 28.
Three weeks after leading Army to its first NCAA tournament
appearance as a first-year coach, Dixon died of arrhythmia,
probably caused by an enlarged heart.

Between games, Maggie Dixon's parents, her sister, Julie
Dixon-Silva, and Jamie were presented with a ring commemorating the
2005-06 Patriot League championship. Banners honoring the title and
Maggie as conference coach of the year were unveiled in the rafters
of Christl Arena.

Jamie Dixon held up the ring box to his team, which was standing
just off the court. The players pointed back and continued
applauding.

"It was so important for us to be here for Coach Dixon," said
center Aaron Gray, who had 10 points and 13 rebounds. "It is so
fortunate for us to have a coach like that. With all he has gone
through off the court these last months and to see how he has
handled it, we know he is ready to handle anything on the court."

In the second game, No. 7 Ohio State beat the Army women's team,
now coached by Dixon's former assistant, Dave Magarity, 77-41.

"Our family now has such a special affinity for this place,"
Jamie Dixon said of West Point, where his sister was buried, an
honor rarely given to civilians. "The people here have treated us
so well and made our family part of their family."

Mike Cook, a transfer from East Carolina making his debut with
the Panthers after sitting out last season, was 7-for-11 from the
field and had 17 points to lead five scorers in double figures.

"I was really nervous before the game. I wanted to make a good
impression on everybody," the 6-4 swingman said. "I was able to
get a couple of easy baskets early and settle into the game."

Derek Drews led the Broncos, who trailed by 25 points at
halftime in the season opener for both teams, with 13 points.

"That is probably one of the best teams we'll play this season
and hopefully we'll play one like that at the end of the year,"
Drews said, referring to the NCAA tournament. "They went on a big
run in the first half and I thought we battled back in the second
half. But they have the possibility of being the best team in the
country."

Pittsburgh, returning four starters and eight of its top 10
players from a team that went 25-8 last season and earned its fifth
straight NCAA tournament bid, gave up a home game to participate in
the doubleheader.

The Panthers shot 59 percent and outrebounded the Broncos 37-28.

Michael Redell added 10 points for Western Michigan, which
returned three starters from a team that finished 14-17 last
season.

The Panthers took control in the first half with a 17-2 run that
gave them a 36-16 lead with 5:43 left. Cook had six points in the
run as Pittsburgh used its size advantage to dominate inside.

Ronald Ramon hit two 3-pointers in the final 39 seconds to give
Pittsburgh a 47-22 halftime lead. Ramon finished 4-for-5 on 3s and
had 16 points.

The 7-foot Gray, the Big East preseason player of the year, was
able to block shots without even leaving the floor as Western
Michigan's front line, with nobody taller than 6-7, tried to go
right at him.

Keith Benjamin made a free throw with 12:38 to give the Panthers
their first 30-point lead, 60-30.

"There's so much talent on this team that anybody who thinks I
have to be the workhorse and is the only main guy is wrong," Gray
said.

It was the first meeting of the schools and the loss dropped the
Broncos to 3-1 all-time against the Big East. The wins were against
Virginia Tech, no longer a member of the conference, from 2001-04.