Senior forward Sam Young scored 18 points, and sophomore center DeJuan Blair added 17 to lead Pittsburgh to its fifth straight win. Junior guard Jermaine Dixon added 14 points, including 11 in the first half and a marvelous defensive effort on sharp-shooting Bearcats' point guard Deonta Vaughn.
Vaughn scored nine points on 3-for-7 shooting. He entered the contest averaging 16 points per game. Redshirt sophomore forward Gilbert Brown tallied 12 points for the Panthers (23-2, 10-2 Big East), who tied a school record by shooting 67.4 percent from the field. They missed only eight two-point field goal attempts the entire game and matched exactly their performance against Kent in the 2006 NCAA Tournament.
"Just being more aggressive, going to the basket and things like that,'' Brown said when asked what was different about his game after several lackluster performances. "Levance did a great job finding me for open lay-ups and dunks, so my teammates deserve a lot of credit for my performance.''
With a showdown at No. 1 UConn looming on Monday, Pitt showed few signs of looking ahead while playing a team that needed a win to strengthen its NCAA Tourney resume. Mike Williams had 17 points and Larry Davis 13 for Cincinnati (17-9,7-6). The Bearcats came into the game having won three straight and 5 of 6, but still lack a signature victory that this would have provided.
Though Pitt never trailed, Cincinnati got within 54-49 with less than 13 minutes to play. But the Panthers responded with a 9-0 run to take control. The run was ignited by a huge slam dunk from Brown off a lob from senior point guard Levance Fields.
"We had the energy guy, Gil Brown, step up, finally,'' Blair said. "He did an excellent job coming off the bench and gave us a spark in the first half and second half. And Levance, what a game he had. ... He's the field general out there, the guy who gets us going.''
Fields had 11 points and a game-high 13 assists with no turnovers for Pitt. The Big East leader in assists entered the game ranked second in the nation and now has the six top assist games among Conference players this season. He has averaged 12.3 assists during his past four games.
"The guys did a great job spotting up and knocking some shots down,'' Fields said. "DeJuan, Sam and Terrell Biggs did a great job inside, scoring and on defense. It was a great team effort, and now we can move on to Connecticut.''
The Panthers shot 72 percent in the first half, missing only seven of 25 field goal attempts. They had shot better than 60 percent from the field only once earlier this season, when they made 62.2 percent of their shots against Belmont in November.
"It was a great game for us, and I thought we played very well offensively,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "Cincinnati played very well offensively, too, and I think they're an NCAA Tournament team. ... So, to get a win against a quality opponent like we played today, it's really great. We could have played better defensively, but we did a pretty good job.''
Pitt has shot at least 45 percent during each of its conference victories, with the past nine coming by double digits. The Panthers have won six of seven overall and 18 consecutive games at the Petersen Events Center.
Next up for Pitt is Connecticut, which won its 13th consecutive game Saturday at Seton Hall. The Panthers are 1 1/2 games behind the Huskies at the top of the conference standings. As the game wound down with Pitt in control, fans in the Oakland New student section chanted, "We want UConn.''
Pitt, which improved to 15-0 at home this season, has won at least 20 games overall and 10 Big East contests in each of the past eight seasons.
No. 4 Pitt 85, Cincinnati 69
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