Sure, Pittsburgh (26-9) has had key contributions from every player in its rotation this season, but Sam Young has been the Panthers' leading scorer practically from the outset this season. And Levance Fields knows how to get him the ball.
"I have confidence in every player to make a big shot for us, and it's my job to get them the ball,'' Fields said. "But Sam's been unbelievable. He can score a lot of ways, inside or outside, coming off a screen or creating for himself. He really had a great season and cranked it up in the Big East Tournament.''
Young, Pitt's leading scorer at 18.3 points per game, was named the most valuable player, and Fields was on the all-tourney team for the Panthers. Young averaged 20 points and seven rebounds per game, shot 49.2 percent (31-63), blocked 10 shots and had six steals. Young's 80 points in four tournament games was just one short of the 2004 record set by Connecticut's Ben Gordon.
Young scored 16 points in the title game, has scored in double figures in 34 of Pitt's 35 games this season and 42 of his past 46 games played. He moved into first place on Pitt's Big East Tournament career scoring list. He now has 142 career points and moved ahead of Donatas Zavackas (138 from 2000-03), Brandin Knight (136, 2000-03) and Carl Krauser (134, 2003-06). Young also moves into third on the rebounding list with 64 career boards. He trails Jaron Brown (71, 2000-04) and Isaac Hawkins (70, 1997-01).
"I won a state championship in high school, but this means so much more,'' Young said. "You're on a higher level, a greater level. Not to say college is so much higher, but you're playing in the Big East.
"That's the best conference in college basketball. To be in the Big East and to be a Big East champion, that says a lot. I feel like I just won a million dollars. I can't say how proud I am of myself and my team.''
With his performance at the Big East Tournament, Young actually could have earned himself a million-dollar contract in the NBA. Some believe he should remain at Pitt for his senior season to improve his game. Young still needs to improve his ball-handling skills and refine his outside shot even more if he's going to be successful in the NBA, and he'll need to play defense all the time like he did in the Big East Tournament.
Young wouldn't comment on his future, however. He preferred to talk about Pitt's chances in the NCAA Tournament.
"It felt great to be the MVP and for the team to win the Big East title, but it also was important that we were able to give the freshmen on our team something to look forward to for the next three years,'' Young said. "And it was a great way for us to send the seniors out on a good note as well.
"But we're not done yet. We want to keep winning and advance in the NCAA Tournament. For myself, to get the MVP and be a champion, that says a lot for this program. The NCAA Tournament is a whole new season for us, and I look forward to the challenges facing us. I look forward to what I'll face as well.''
Oral Roberts has strong guard play, including leading scorer Robert Jarvis (16.1 points per game), but Young likely will be matched against 6-foot-6 senior forward Moses Ehambe. He's the No. 2 scorer at 11.7 points and appears to have a perimeter game similar to Young's, but he's more of a big guard than a forward. The Golden Eagles have two big forwards, 6-9 senior Yemi Ogunoye and 6-8 junior Marcus Lewis, but neither is among the top scorers. Lewis is fifth at 8.9 points per game, while Ogunoye doesn't score much at all.
"It's all about team defense for us,'' Young said. "We're going out there with a lot of determination and motivation, and the younger guys are starting to step up to make big plays for us down the stretch. And that's what you need. We have everybody on the same page right now, and that's a good feeling.
"We know that we can't lose any more games from here on out. We have to go undefeated, and that's the mentality and the mind-set that we have. So, we're going to keep feeling like that all the way through the NCAA Tournament. That's the way it has to be for us to be successful in the NCAAs.''
And as long as Young continues to perform at a high level, Pitt's success should be there as well.
Sam Young's Game At Another Level
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