#4 Pitt sweeps season series with #1 UConn

Pitt swingman Sam Young scored 31 points to lead the Panthers in their second win this season over the Huskies, 70-60. Pitt was in control for much of the game, but UConn trimmed the lead to two (52-50) with 8:26 to play, but after a timeout, Pitt went on a 13-4 run over the next six-plus minutes to put the game away.

According to Jim Lunardi, Pitt was already projected to be a #1 seed, but this win probably clinched it for the Panthers. They have the top RPI and the 13th-toughest schedule. UConn is probably safe as well, but an early exit from the Big East Championship might give the selection committee pause, especially if projected #2 seeds Duke, Louisville, Memphis and/or Michigan State are impressive in their conference tournaments. UConn has the 5th-best RPI, but their 43rd-ranked schedule isn’t much better than Memphis (47th) and doesn’t compare to those aforementioned teams.

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#4 Pitt upsets #1 UConn

It’s funny how draft stock doesn’t always have a whole heck of a lot to do with how good a player is. For example, take the two big-name big men in tonight’s Pitt/UConn matchup. One guy is projected to go as high as #2 in some mock drafts and the other is supposed to be a mid- to a late-first round pick. One guy is 7’3″, long and athletic and is one of the nation’s best shot blockers. The other is an undersized power forward who is maybe 6’7″ if you’re feeling generous. How did these to players perform tonight? One guy scored 22 points and grabbed 23 rebounds and the other managed just five points and four boards.

Who’s who? Well, the 7’3″ Hasheem Thabeet is projected to go in the top 5 in most mock drafts and he was thoroughly outplayed by 6’7″ strongman DeJuan Blair. In fact, Blair is so strong that he nearly broke Thabeet’s arm early in the first half (an event which was captured in the above picture).

The game was a back-and-forth affair until late in the second half. With 3:11 to play and the game tied, 61-61, Levance Fields made the first of back-to-back three pointers to put the Panthers up six. He went on to hit four straight free throws to put the Huskies away. The Panthers upended the Huskies, 76-68.

Sam Young — another NBA prospect — led the Panthers with 25 points, hitting 4 of his 6 three-pointers. A.J. Price posted 18 points and eight assists.

The key to beating UConn is to limit Thabeet’s impact on both ends of the court. Pittsburgh kept him from dunking and he was just 3-6 from the free throw line. On the other end of the court, Blair was very physical with the big man, pushing him back underneath the basket before using a plethora of post moves to finish at the rim. It’s hard to block shots when the offensive player is pushing you back, and that’s exactly what Blair did tonight.

Another #1 falls. Pittsburgh is a tough team and they won’t be an easy out come March.

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