Pitt 73, Cincinnati 67

The shot wasn't as big as the one he made to beat Duke earlier this season, but junior point guard Levance Fields nailed a 3-pointer with 54 seconds remaining to just about seal a 73-67 Pitt win against Cincinnati in a Big East matchup Wednesday night at the Petersen Events Center.

Senior Keith Benjamin, freshman DeJuan Blair and redshirt frosh Gilbert Brown all made free throws in the final minutes to help Pittsburgh (20-8, 8-7) maintain its lead, but it was the trey by Levance Fields that was the most significant.

Fields was 1-for-7 shooting in the first half and missed his only second-half shot before nailing the 3-pointer. Pitt's shooting woes continued, as the Panthers were 8-for-26 from long range on the night. But Fields made his last one count.

"I really wasn't trying to look for my shot, because it wasn't falling, so I was trying to get everybody else the best shots possible,'' Fields said. "But down the stretch, no matter what my percentage is and whatever's going on, I'm always going to be willing to take a shot. That was the same spot, down three to Louisville, and I missed it. So, it felt good to hit it this time.

"(And) I hope it gets me going. I'll be back in here shooting tomorrow, but we'll see Saturday (at Syracuse). I just can't let it affect me. I know I can impact this team with a lot of different things, regardless if I'm shooting the ball well, so I just have to keep playing hard and the shot will come.''

Fields played a decent floor game with five assists and just one turnover, and Pitt committed just six turnovers overall. However, the Panthers again were out-rebounded by Cincinnati -- 37-25 -- as nobody backed up Blair's 18 points and 10 boards. Junior Sam Young, who scored 20 points despite going just 1-for-5 from 3-point range, did not collect a rebound in 32 minutes.

"I guess I didn't have enough (rebounds), and Sam didn't have any at all,'' Blair said. "But we've got to get that together. Rebounding is going to get us more wins. We can't keep getting out-rebounded, because we're usually on top in the conference, but we're letting that slip away.

"So, everybody has to crash the boards and box their man out. ... We have to get rebounds from everybody, and we have to keep working hard. That's the only way to get it done, and I know we're going to do it.''

Fields believed it was a team effort, or lack of one, that caused the rebounding differential for Pitt once again.

"The guards, we have to help out,'' Fields said, "because DeJuan and Sam can't do it all by themselves. ... But I think the effort has been there. There's just been some unfortunate things happen, long rebounds and tip-outs, that the other team takes advantage of. And that's what happened against Cincinnati.''

Coach Jamie Dixon believed that his team proved it can win without holding a rebounding edge, but he would rather turn that number around and take his chances at success that way.

"That's a hard-fought win against a very good team,'' Dixon said. "Cincinnati's an NCAA-Tournament team. Right now, they're an NCAA-Tournament team. There's no question in my mind. They had the guard out early and lost some games that they wouldn't have lost. They're senior-oriented.

"They start four seniors, so that's a good win against a very good team that's well-coached, and they're not a 13-14 team. That's an 8-7 team that had a guard out in the beginning of the year. So, we beat a good team, but we're not going to do that on a consistent basis if we continue to get out-rebounded.''

Pitt's starters played more than 30 minutes each, so Dixon apparently has his rotation set. Tyrell Biggs, Brown, Bradley Wanamaker and Gary McGhee all came off the bench. Biggs had five points and two rebounds in 14 minutes, while Brown added three points and four boards in 10.

After a slow start, Benjamin got hot in the second half and finished with 11 points. Senior Ronald Ramon was 3-for-11 from the field, all from 3-point range, but his final three put him over the 1,000-point mark at Pitt. He's the 36th Panthers player to accomplish that feat.

"What he's been is a winner,'' Dixon said. "He's played on 20-win teams every year. Not too many have done that. And he's just a great kid and a great person. For him to get the number, it's significant, but it doesn't mean more than him being a great person.''

John Williamson led Cincinnati (13-14, 8-7) with 27 points and nine rebounds, while guard Deonta Vaughn added 24 points and eight assists.

Pitt plays at Syracuse Saturday at noon.

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