No. 1 Is Done Again

While the nation was keyed on the matchup between Connecticut's Hasheem Thabeet and Pitt's DeJuan Blair, senior Sam Young was super with 31 points and 10 rebounds in 37 minutes to lead the Panthers to a 70-60 Big East Conference win Saturday afternoon at the Petersen Events Center.

That's not surprising for the player called Superman by his teammates. Sam Young also led No. 3 Pittsburgh in scoring the last time knocked off No. 1 Connecticut in Hartford, and he's a big reason why the Panthers should be a top seed in the NCAA Tournament in two weeks.

Pitt (28-3, 15-3) can share the Big East title with UConn (27-3, 15-3) and Louisville if the Cardinals lose tonight at West Virginia. However, the Panthers would get the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament next week due to the Conference's tie-breaking system involving multiple teams.

"He's Batman, and I'm Robin. Here's Superman, and the Joker is over there,'' Pitt sophomore center DeJuan Blair said referring to seniors Levance Fields, Young and Tyrell Biggs, respectively.

To go with his nearly career-high point total (he had 33 against Belmont in the preseason), Young tallied 25 points against the Huskies Feb. 16 at UConn. That's 56 points in two games. Superman, indeed.

"I see those UConn jerseys, and my eyes light up,'' Young said. "I just came out ready to play. I was focused. I got a lot of rest (Friday) and got some shots (Friday night). So, I just came out and was ready to go. I saw the crowd, and I just fed off them. Come Saturday morning, I was ready to go.''

Pitt held a 14-point lead several times against UConn, the last one coming on a short jumper by Bradley Wanamaker with 12:23 remaining. However, the Huskies went on a 12-0 in some five minutes while the Panthers were scoreless. UConn's A.J. Price hit two 3-pointers during the run.

Then, Young kicked into high gear. He drove to the hoop for an athletic lay-up and finished a fast-break with a terrific two-handed, twisting slam off a pass from Fields. Price hit another trey shortly afterward, but it was the Huskies' final basket. UConn coach Jim Calhoun called Young brilliant, and Fields basically concurred with his description of the fast-break sequence.

"I know that when we get in transition, I know Sam's going to be sprinting as hard as he can whether he's in front or behind me,'' Fields said. "So, I was running. I saw the defender coming, but Sam was running.

"And I just had to get it up there near the basket. He did the rest. He's very athletic, and I just have to get it to him. He did everything after that.''

The slam caused an incredible uproar from the record 12,908 in attendance. There certainly appeared to be more fans at the Pete, but fire marshall rules prohibit Pitt from releasing higher attendance figures.

"That dunk's going to be in the top 10 on ESPN,'' Blair blurted out, then signaled to that network's Andy Katz in the media room.

Young couldn't rank it, however, noting that he's had a lot of dunks in his career. He also said it didn't have a name, but it was spectacular nonetheless.

"You might not think I took a look, but I saw him,'' Fields said, noting that he takes an early peak and then goes to the hoop knowing all along that Young will be there at the end. "I know Sam's running, because that's what he does. So, all I have to do is get the ball up there, and he'll get it.''

Fields running at all was amazing, considering that he was on crutches a day earlier after a hard fall during the Marquette game Wednesday night. While he landed solidly on his tailbone, Fields apparently also injured his groin. And that nearly kept him out of the game and not any lower back problems. Fields said he knew at 11 a.m. that he would play in the noon tip-off.

"I knew I was going to play,'' Fields said. "As long as I could move around, I knew I was going to play. It was my last game (at home). So, I just had to get as much treatment as possible. It was an emotional game, and once I saw the crowd my leg started loosening up. It's just sore, but that's to be expected.

"We have a day off (Sunday), and some time before we play again on Thursday. So, I just have to take it easy and get some treatment, and I'll be fine. The tailbone is fine, but it's the groin that hurts more, for whatever reason. But once I started sweating, and the crowd was crazy. Being my last game here, I had to play. And the more and more I sweated, the better I felt.''

Throughout the post-game media session, Blair was smiling and nodding approval at everything his fellow seniors said. And why not? Young, Fields and Biggs became the top class at Pitt with 109 career wins, and they're the fourth group to go undefeated at home. The last one was Brandin Knight's group.

Blair only tallied eight points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes due to some foul trouble, while Thabeet had 14 and 13 -- every point in the first half. In the second half, Thabeet was 0-for-2 from the field and had a tussle with Blair at midcourt about four minutes into the second half. The two went for a loose ball, and Thabeet pushed Blair to the ground. He fell over another player.

"He knocked me on the ground, and nobody does that,'' Blair said. "I'm not going to let anybody knock me on the ground. (So), I would have done that with anybody. But Batman (Fields) was there to help me, so I was cool.

"The refs,'' Blair added when asked about the difference in Thabeet. "I told you all, but he didn't score in the second half. So, I was happy about that. ... I didn't have a big game, but I did what I had to do to help us win. And when you have seniors like this ... it was a beautiful day for Pitt.

"The only other thing is for West Virginia to beat Louisville, but if that doesn't happen I'm still a happy character for these guys, coach and the team,'' Blair said. "We put ourselves in a good situation, so I'm just excited right now.''

Pitt leaves Tuesday for the Big East Conference Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

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