During Pittsburgh wins against former No. 1 Connecticut (76-68) and DePaul (80-61) this past week, DeJuan Blair was dominant. And those efforts led the Panthers to the No. 1 ranking today for the second time this season.
Blair averaged 21 points, 20.5 rebounds (eight offensive) and shot 55.9 percent (19-for-34) from the field. His 41 rebounds in the two games set a Pitt record during that stretch to surpass Jerome Lane's mark (38) in 1986-87.
"I've been feeling like I can get every rebound, but in the second half, I had some rebounds stolen from me,'' Blair joked after the DePaul game. "And the ball wasn't bouncing my way. Sam got a couple, and Nasir got one. And Tyrell. But I want to do everything that I can for my team to win.
"That's going after the ball, going to get the money, that's what I call the ball. And that's what I'm trying to get the other guys to do. Go after the money. That's what this team needs to win, and that's where I get my points. The rebounds are what we need, and if you can get them you're going to score.''
Blair recorded a double-double before halftime in both games. Against UConn, Blair poured in 22 points (10 of 17 field goals) and grabbed a career-high 23 rebounds. The 23 boards tied for second on the Big East's all-time performance list and set the Panthers' league record for most rebounds in a game. He followed that performance with a 20-point, 18-rebound (10 offensive) effort and converted 9 of 17 shots against DePaul in just 23 total minutes.
"DeJuan had a big game in limited minutes, but ... we were able to get other guys more minutes and that can only help us in the end,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "(But Blair) played well. I think he finished.
"He was upset about what he missed, but he missed one with his left hand. And I was pleased because going to the left was the right move. (So), I thought he did a great job. ... But I think we got contributions from everybody.''
For the season, Blair averages 15.8 points and 13 rebounds per game and makes 59.5 percent (175 of 294) of his field-goal attempts. He leads the nation in offensive rebounding (six per game), is fourth nationally in total rebounds per game (13) and is 16th in field-goal percentage (59.5).
Blair is the second Pitt player to earn Big East Player of the Week honors this year. Senior forward Sam Young also earned the honor January 26.
Pitt (25-2, 12-2 in the Big East) faces Providence Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. The game will be produced by ESPN Regional and broadcast locally on FSN Pittsburgh. The contest marks Dixon's 200th career game as Pitt's head coach.
Pitt's Media Relations Department contributed to this story.
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