No. 4 Pitt 70, WVU 59

DeJuan Blair got in early foul trouble and so did Levance Fields, but that didn't matter too much to the Pitt men's basketball team.

That's because the fourth-ranked Panthers were playing West Virginia, and senior forward Sam Young usually lights up the Mountaineers.

Young tallied 20 points, seven rebounds, three blocked shots and a steal in 34 minutes to lead Pittsburgh to a 70-59 win against WVU Monday night at the Petersen Events Center. Young had 22 in Pitt's win at WVU two weeks ago.

"We expect a lot from DeJuan, and he expects a lot from himself,'' Pitt senior point guard Levance Fields said. "Obviously, foul trouble created the problems for him, but Sam picked up the scoring for us. And we did a better job on defense, still not great, but we played a lot better.

(And) Sam, he just has to take good shots. When he's taking bad shots, he gets himself in trouble. But when he stays patient, waits for low-post touches and kick-outs and runs our plays, he's a much better player. Sometimes, he gets away from that, (but) today and the first WVU game he played well.''

Pitt held WVU to 40.4-percent shooting from the field, much better than it did while rolling up more than 90 points in the previous three victories, but still not less than the magic number that Panthers coach Jamie Dixon specified.

"I liked how we did it,'' Dixon said. "We ground it out. We had guys in foul trouble ... DeJuan and Levance, but we still won the battle of the boards (39-23). And we really ground it out in the second half to pull away.

"(And) we really challenged ourselves to hold them to 40 percent, and there was a discussion -- Levance likes to debate these things -- because they think that 40.4 percent counts. But I told them I'd get back to them on that.''

Fields had 13 points and seven assists to help the Panthers (22-2, 9-2 in Big East) win their fourth straight and sixth time in seven games. And he believed Pitt got back to what it knows best after "losing our rep as a defensive team after the DePaul game,'' and that's playing stifling defense, running when it has the chance and shooting at a high percentage from the field.

"I think this was like an old Pitt game, scoring 70 points and 59 for the opposing team,'' Fields said. "But we still have to work on it, because they shot 40 percent. And we want the opposition to shoot below 40 percent, so we've still got to get it a couple percentiles down to be where we need to be.''

Alex Ruoff scored 17 points and Devin Ebanks added 16, but West Virginia (16-8, 5-6) lost its sixth game in seven tries against ranked Big East teams. The Mountaineers actually led early, 17-13 with 8:38 remaining in the first half on an Ebanks jumper. The freshman forward had 10 of WVU's opening points.

And Pitt was held scoreless for some seven minutes while Fields and sophomore center DeJuan Blair were on the bench with two fouls each. Then, Dixon put Fields back in the game, and he Panthers' offense took off. Freshman Ashton Gibbs nailed a 3-pointer, and Young scored for baskets and added a free throw to give Pitt a 13-3 run and seven-point lead, 29-22, with about a minute left.

But a foul at the end led to two WVU free throws, so Pitt took a 29-24 advantage into the locker room at halftime. But with Fields running the show, the Panthers clearly had some momentum after a slow start.

"I just had a feeling, and it worked out,'' Dixon said. "We built the lead as Levance got back in there, but it's a tough call. If he gets the third foul or we lose the lead, it's a bad decision. So, it worked out, and I think we put ourselves in a pretty good position up seven (points), but we didn't finish it out.

"Levance is smart. He's been through it, and he knows how to stay away from foul trouble. But I thought his run there and in the second half, he really controlled the game with his penetration and seven assists. And I say ONLY seven, because of the level that he's been playing at lately.''

Ruoff scored his points in just 24 minutes due to foul trouble, and he eventually left the game late in the second half. Junior forward Da'Sean Butler also fouled out, but he wasn't as successful in his 18 minutes. Butler, WVU's leading scorer with nearly 18 points per game, was 2-for-12 from the field and had just four points when he left the game for good.

Blair played just five first-half minutes and 11 in the second half before hitting the pine for the duration, but he didn't foul out. He actually picked up his third foul with 8:35 remaining in the game, but argued with the referee and received a technical. That counted as a fourth personal foul, and Dixon sat him afterward. Blair finished with eight points and nine rebounds.

"I don't know what happened,'' Dixon said. "Obviously, those are things you don't want to happen, but you have to learn from it. ... We were playing well without him and were pulling away, and we were playing good perimeter defense. And that's really not his game, so ... DeJuan stayed on the bench.''

Fields was questioned about Blair, as well as his foul situation.

"He's not a guy that we've got to worry about losing his head a lot,'' Fields said. "He got caught up in the play at the time and lost his head right there, but I don't expect him to do it again. So, we're not really worried about it. It was just one of them things that he wished he could have had back.

"When I went back in, I tried not to foul but still be as aggressive as possible. Obviously, they have a different stile of offense. Another team, like Marquette, they probably would have attacked me more. But West Virginia has more of an open motion-type of offense. So, I was able to stay out of harms way.''

The Panthers return to Big East play against Cincinnati Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center. It's also a big football recruiting day, as a couple dozen of the top juniors have been invited to visit Pitt.

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