Sam Young scored 22 points in just 25 minutes, including 16 points in the second half, to carry No. 4 Pittsburgh past West Virginia, 79-67, Sunday at the WVU Coliseum.
"A very impressive win for us,'' Panthers coach Jamie Dixon said. "We know how good they are. We came out and executed throughout.''
Young connected on 9 of 14 shots despite sitting out the final seven minutes of the first half after picking up his second foul and the first five minutes of the second half thanks to his third foul only seven seconds after intermission.
And when he was in the game, Young practically drove to the basket at will against the Mountaineers, instead of settling for outside shots that weren't connecting just a few games earlier. Young appeared to get untracked during a win against Syracuse Monday, but was plagued by foul trouble at WVU.
"I felt like a couple games in the past I took too many threes,'' Young said. "It's uncharacteristic of me to take too many threes. I'm not Stephen Curry or anybody like that. I have too many dimensions in my game to be relying on the three that much.''
Dixon readily agreed.
"At times, we want him to get to the basket or post up a little more,'' Dixon said. "We want him to get to the free-throw line, and he was able to do that a little bit more. I think we got him the ball in the right spot a lot of times.''
WVU coach Bob Huggins could only lament his team's defensive performance against Young.
"He's a great player, and he's been doing that for a long time,'' Huggins said. "We gave Sam open looks, and he made them.''
Pitt sophomore center DeJuan Blair picked up yet another double-double for the Panthers (18-1, 6-1 Big East) with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while senior point guard Levance Fields added 13 points and five assists. Junior guard Jermaine Dixon made 3-for-5 from 3-point range and tallied 11 points.
Young said it was special to pull out such a big win in a difficult environment.
"I'm extra proud of us,'' Young said. "They've got an unbelievable crowd. I think if you listen to the crowd and they get their team going, you're pretty much done down here.''
Junior forward Da'Sean Butler paced West Virginia (14-5, 3-3) with 21 points and six rebounds on 6-of-13 shooting. Senior guard Alex Ruoff tallied 16 points, while freshman Darryl Bryant added 12 points and six assists for the Mountaineers.
However, Ruoff and Bryant combined to go 2-for-11 on 3-pointers, and West Virginia shot 41 percent as a team. Pitt countered by hitting almost 54 percent of its shots.
"We wanted to make sure Alex Ruoff and Da'Sean Butler took tough shots,'' Young said. "We felt like if we could make them take tough shots all game, it was going to be a long night for the rest of the team because they're pretty much the two leaders when it comes to scoring.''
Pitt started the scoring when Fields lobbed a pass to Young for an alley-oop that quieted the rowdy crowd just a few seconds into the game, but the Mountaineers harassed the Panthers' offense in the ensuing minutes and forced three turnovers to take a 9-4 advantage.
Pitt pulled even with West Virginia at 16-16, culminated by two free throws from Blair. The Mountaineers scored four straight points, but fouls helped bring Pitt back. The teams alternated baskets for a few minutes, but West Virginia fired up the crowd with five straight points, including a 3-point bucket by Ruoff, to push the Mountaineers ahead, 33-30.
Pitt suffered a scare with 2:17 remaining in the first half, as senior forward Tyrell Biggs went down, clutching his ankle. He partially walked off on his own power with some assistance from Bradley Wanamaker. It appeared to be an ankle problem, but the TV announcers said it was a knee bruise.
"I'm not sure exactly what it is,'' Coach Dixon said. "He was in tremendous pain, and that's rare because he doesn't go out much. I don't think he's missed a practice in four years. He seemed to be all right, but he couldn't really explain what was wrong. I think he's going to be fine.''
Without Biggs, the Panthers raced to seven straight points for their biggest lead at the time, 39-35. Wanamaker pulled down a rebound and found freshman Nasir Robinson for a fast-break lay-up for the four-point advantage.
But Devin Ebanks sent West Virginia to the locker room on a high note, tipping in a missed shot just before the buzzer sounded to make the score 39-37 at halftime.
Biggs returned to start the second half, but Young committed his third foul only seven seconds in and had to sit out. Two Blair lay-ups gave Pitt a 43-40 lead, but the Panthers couldn't convert on two fast-break opportunities, opening the door for the Mountaineers to come back and take the lead.
Young re-entered the contest and sparked Pitt to its largest lead, 57-50, with a baseline fadeaway.
"In the first half, I felt like I was kind of on and I was starting to take advantage of them,'' Young said. "But because of the fouls, I had to play limited minutes. In the second half, I just stayed aggressive. I was a little quicker.''
This was part of a 15-3 run capped by a long 3-pointer from Jermaine Dixon that gave the Panthers a 68-53 advantage.
West Virginia attempted a valiant comeback, but Pitt remained strong, and a thunderous drive and dunk by Young with three-plus minutes remaining pretty much emptied the Coliseum with Pitt ahead, 75-61.
Zack Chakan is the assistant sports editor for the Pitt News.
No. 4 Pitt 79, WVU 67
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