Pitt 86, Fairleigh Dickinson 63

On a night when the Pitt men's basketball team raised its Big East Tournament championship banner to the rafters, the Panthers looked every bit as good as the one that had four straight wins in that remarkable stretch with an 86-63 win against Fairleigh Dickinson Friday night at the Petersen Events Center.

"I've been coaching 25 years and have seen a lot of good teams,'' Fairleigh Dickinson coach Tom Green said. "We try to schedule a few big-time teams each season, and I've been to NCAA Tournament four times. I've never seen a team play man-to-man defense the way Pittsburgh plays it.

"Jamie's defense, I think, is the best defense that I've ever coached against. It's just incredible the way they play the ball, play guys off the ball and blitz ball screens. We really couldn't run any plays offensively against them. We've got about 12-13 plays in, and we couldn't run any of them.

"I've got a vote in the USA Today-ESPN (Coaches') Poll,'' Green added, "and I voted Pitt No. 2 the last time behind North Carolina. And I'm going to continue to vote them No. 2 until I see somebody better.''

Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon got 10 players in the game against the Knights, five returning players and five new guys -- which he pointed out every chance he got during his post-game press conference -- and every one scored. Sophomore center DeJuan Blair led the way with a double-double, a team-high 17 points and 13 rebounds in 27 minutes.

"DeJuan missed me on the wing one time, but other than that he dominated again like he always does,'' senior point guard Levance Fields said. "Even when we don't run plays for him or get him a touch, he always crashes the boards and gets his own shots and really plays well within our offense.

"When he gets opportunities, he always makes the best of it. ... And he's so athletic, he made those three reverse shots under the basket. And that's our center, so that's going to be a mismatch for us all year. He did a great job during the off-season working on his game, and he looks good.''

Seniors Sam Young and Fields added 15 points and 25 minutes each. Young took a team-high 14 shots and was 0-for-4 from 3-point range. However, he had three rebounds and two steals and made several athletic moves around the hoop for baskets. Young also had a tomahawk slam off a lob from Fields, who took an outlet pass from Blair. Fields was a surprise starter and kept the Pitt offense in high gear.

"It was good to get off to a winning start, and I thought we did some good things,'' Coach Jamie Dixon said. "But I also thought there were a lot of things that we can improve on. With five new guys with our five returning guys ... we didn't do too badly in the first game this season.

"So, there were a lot of good things, like our passing and decision-making, and with Levance out there it lifted our play. I thought our crowd was great. This is more than we ever had. It's more accessible for them to get tickets. ... So, it's great. They were tremendous, and the crowd was great.''

The other starters were senior Tyrell Biggs, who played just six minutes in the first due to foul trouble and finished with eight points and four rebounds in 17 minutes, and junior Jermaine Dixon with six points and four assists in 26 minutes. Fields added eight assists and no turnovers.

Freshman guards Ashton Gibbs and Travon Woodall played 19 and 15 minutes, respectively, and tallied eight and three points. Woodall replaced Fields at the point and added five assists, while Dixon played two guard. Frosh Nasir Robinson had four points and four boards in 18 minutes for Biggs and already is an up-grade due to his quickness and tenacity on the boards. Sophomore center Gary McGhee added four points and four rebounds in 13 minutes.

"Me and the veteran guys, we try to push them,'' Blair said. "I don't look at them as freshmen. They're new guys, but we're working them hard and pushing them, and they're doing a good job. ... They're going to be a big help to us, and we're going to need them some day. One of them will step up and win a game.''

Blair's opening four baskets were off different inside moves. He opened the scoring with a slam off a steal and pass from Jermaine Dixon. Then, he took a pass from Biggs and moved to the other side for a lay-in. His third hoop was a put-back, and the fourth finished a fast break off a pass from Fields.

Blair also made several reverse lay-ups, an addition to his offensive repertoire. But the Big Fella said it was nothing he planned.

"It was just there,'' Blair said, referring to one particular reverse where he fooled he defender by going to the other side. "I didn't have it on one, so I just scooped it around to the other. It was a tough shot, but I was happy I made it.''

And the Panthers were thrilled to get that first win in the books.

Pitt returns to action against Miami (Ohio) Monday night at 7 at the Pete.

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