Baby Shaq

One night after Sam Young was compared to NBA star LeBron James, IUP coach Joe Lombardi threw out another high-profile name when talking about Pitt sophomore center DeJuan Blair.

"Was that DeJuan? I thought that was Shaq,'' Lombardi said, referring, of course, to the Phoenix Suns' Shaquille O'Neal.

DeJuan Blair looked like the Shaq of old with a dominating performance against the Crimson Hawks, scoring 27 points and grabbing 18 rebounds in only 21 minutes in an 86-60 triumph by Pittsburgh.

The sophomore center made 13 of his 14 shots, only misfiring on a jump shot with 5:15 to go in the first half. He showed his muscle under the basket, tipping numerous missed shots to himself and laying them in. Eight of his 18 rebounds came on the offensive end.

"I'm a little mad that I didn't get 20 rebounds,'' Blair said. "But 18 in 21 minutes, that's almost a rebound a (minute). I was just going after every one. Today was just a party, and I was the only one dancing.''

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon raved about all aspects of Blair's play.

"He's been doing it for every game,'' Dixon said. "He's in better physical condition. He's working hard. It's dramatic what he's done in his outlet passing (during) his last couple of games.''

Blair was spectacular in the first half. He scored 20 points and pulled down 16 rebounds in 16 first-half minutes. He also went 10-for-11 from the field.

Tyrell Biggs and Ashton Gibbs both scored 10 points for Pitt (4-0). Sam Young tallied nine points on 4-of-10 shooting.

Every Panthers player entered the contest, and nine of Pitt's top 10 players scored. Pitt's victory was the team's 100th at the Petersen Events Center against just 10 losses.

Former Pitt player Maurice Polen scored four points and had four rebounds in 26 minutes for the Crimson Hawks (2-1). Ashton Smith led IUP with 16 points, and Julian Sanders added 10.

Polen is taking his last few classes at IUP and is trying to get an additional year of basketball eligibility.

Polen had nothing but praise for his former teammates, particularly Blair.

"I think he's developed his game a lot better,'' Pollen said. "He's going to have an impact on the Big East this year. He's a big guy, and he's hard to box out.''

Pitt jumped on the Crimson Hawks from the opening tip. The Panthers connected on eight of their first 10 shots and cruised to a whopping 20-0 advantage on a 3-pointer by Biggs.

IUP finally showed signs of life when Sanders made a 3-pointer of his own for the team's first field goal of the game. That came with 13:29 left in the half.

Sanders hit another from long range as part of a 13-2 run that brought the Crimson Hawks to within nine at 22-13.

The run mostly took place with Pitt's second team on the floor. It struggled offensively and defensively with only Gibbs scoring.

But Blair and the starters regained their touch when reentering the contest. IUP only scored four points the rest of the half, with Pitt finishing the half on a 23-4 run of its own. In the last few minutes, Blair scored 10 straight points.

"That's when I didn't know who I was," said Blair. "I was going after everything. Everything that went off, I was tipping to myself or I would go get it and put it back in if it was around the hoop. It was fun out there."

Young hit a 3-pointer with two seconds remaining to give the Panthers a 45-17 halftime lead.

Blair kept the momentum going in the second half. He scored seven consecutive points early, and even dove for a loose ball that wound up giving Pitt possession despite holding a 30-point lead.

Dixon subbed Blair out after only five minutes of action in the second half and the game already in hand.

Pitt's bench picked up its production in the final 20 minutes, playing extended minutes with the Panthers up by more than 25. Bradley Wanamaker scored all nine of his points in the second half after struggling in the first. Gary McGhee, who had to wear an unnamed No. 42 jersey in the second half after getting blood on his top, had seven points and seven rebounds.

Coach Jamie Dixon said that junior Jermaine Dixon has a little of a hamstring issue, so his minutes were limited. The shooting guard only played 14 minutes, but made a 3-pointer and finished with five points. Coach Dixon doesn't think he will be hampered too much by the injury.

Walk-on Sean Brown saw his first NCAA action, playing during the final minute.

Pitt's next game is Tuesday at 7 p.m. against Belmont, which almost knocked off Duke in the first round during the NCAA Tournament last year. The Bruins only lost that game by a point, 71-70.

Panther More Top Stories