Thanks to Levance Fields high level of “clutch” and a rebounding masterpiece from DeJuan Blair, the Pittsburgh Panthers advanced past the Sweet 16 for the first time maybe ever since 1974. In other words, almost forever. The Panthers long-awaited tournament advancement didn’t come easy, thanks to the stubborn, “we aren’t going away” play of the Xavier Musketeers. Had it not been for Fields’ incredibly clutch play to close out the game, Pitt would be looking in the mirror this morning, wondering where such an outstanding season went. Besides his 3-point bomb that put the Panthers up by one point, Fields also had a steal on Xavier’s next possession, which was converted into points on the other end.
You can see the reaction of the Pitt Panthers in the above image, which was taken during the steal in question. Obviously, Blair thinks the game’s in hand after that. Normally, steals that happen throughout the course of a game don’t usually generate that kind of a reaction.
While making their claim for “Best Team in the Land,” Pittsburgh went to Connecticut’s house and dominated the Huskies, led by a 20-20 (22 points, 23 rebounds) from DeJuan Blair, who indicated last night was one of the most physical games he’s ever played in. During the game, Blair and UConn center Hasheem Thabeet got tangled up going for a rebound, and in a show of dominant strength, Blair flipped Thabeet off of his back and down to the floor. It’s safe to say Blair got the best of that exchange, furthering the whole “beast mode” meme.
While Blair’s dominance gets the headlines — rightfully so — guard Levance Fields finished the Huskies off by scoring 10 points in the final three minutes of the game. Apparently, Blair’s play was the body blow and Fields’ shooting provided the knockout. UConn’s loss also puts the Oklahoma Sooners in a position to take over the number one ranking when the new polls are released next week.
As for Pitt/UConn, a game like last night’s indicates we will be in for one hell of a Big East tournament. While Pitt and the Huskies will be the favorites, Louisville and Marquette will have a say, too. And then we have teams like Villanova and Syracuse, who can beat any team in America on any given night.