March 22, 2009
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DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -Pittsburgh powered its way to a familiar place.
Sam Young, the Panthers' poet in motion, scored 32 points and DeJuan Blair added another double-double as top-seeded Pittsburgh advanced to the round of 16 for the fifth time in eight years with an 84-76 win over Oklahoma State on Sunday.
Pitt (30-4) will play Xavier in the East Regional semifinals in Boston on Thursday.
Obi Muonelo scored 19 points for the eighth-seeded Cowboys (23-12), who gave the Panthers all they could handle before losing their touch in the final minutes. Oklahoma State made 10 3-pointers in the first half but made only two of 12 from long range after halftime.
The Panthers, who played poorly and barely escaped a first-round upset against No. 16 seed East Tennessee State, showed a champion's poise down the stretch.
The Cowboys tied it 74-74 with 2:42 left on an inside shot by Marshall Moses and the basket had the University of Dayton Arena fans, including some of Pitt's Big East brethren from Louisville, thinking they might see the tournament's first No. 1 seed go down.
But Pitt's pudgy point guard Levance Fields drove for a layup, and after OSU's James Anderson missed a 3-pointer, Fields dropped a 3 from up top to make it 79-74 with 1:27 left.
Byron Eaton's two free throws got the Cowboys within 79-76 and it looked like Oklahoma State would get the ball back when Fields missed a long jumper and the ball caromed high in the air.
Blair, though, wanted it more.
The powerful 6-foot-7 forward rose up and snatched the board with his massive hands and dropped it off the glass to give Pitt an 81-76 lead with 40 seconds left.
Oklahoma State, which shot 63 percent in the first half, couldn't get another shot to fall and the Panthers put it away at the line.
After the final horn, there was little celebrating by Panthers, who calmly lined up to shake hands with the Cowboys.
Pitt has unfinished business in this tourney.
"It's a tough bracket we're in," said Blair, who finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds. "We're just fighting through it."
Terrel Harris scored 17 and Eaton and Anderson 15 apiece for Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys did a marvelous job of containing Blair for the first 30 minutes. Using some of the lessons learned while playing Oklahoma's Blake Griffin three times this season, Moses and his teammates collapsed on Pitt's tower of power every time he touched the ball.
Blair didn't score his first field goal until 13:34 was left, and his up-and-under layup put Pitt ahead 60-53. The bucket energized the Panthers, whose defense wasn't up to standards in the first half. Fields then dropped a 3-pointer from the top of the key, accentuating his make by keeping his wrist bent as he retreated on defense.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma State's players lost their shooting touch - all at once.
The Cowboys missed their first six 3-pointers and were just 2-of-13 to start the half before Anderson rolled in a layup.
Fields drained a 3-pointer with 2.3 seconds left in the first half to tie it at 49-49, a fitting finish to a wild opening 20 minutes where the teams combined for 18 3-pointers and the Cowboys hog-tied Blair, who attempted just one shot - 10 minutes into the game - and scored only one point.
The few times Pitt was able to get the ball down low to the Big East's affable bully, Blair was surrounded by OSU defenders.
As he stomped toward Pitt's bench for a timeout, Blair turned to the officials and asked, "Where's the foul?"
Young, who composes his own poetry, listened to his iPod during pregame warmups, drowning out Oklahoma State's blaring band as he worked on his game.
Whatever music he was listening to, it was the right choice.
He carried Pitt's offensive load in the first half, scoring 23 points, the majority of them on outside jumpers to keep the Panthers on pace with the sharpshooting Cowboys.
Both teams received a huge scare in the first half when Eaton and Blair, two of the biggest names in the tournament, collided with 8:41 left.
Eaton was driving to basket when he tripped coming off a screen and fell into Blair, slamming his left shoulder into the Pitt center's left knee. The 265-pound Blair fell awkwardly and landed on top of Eaton. The two stars remained on the floor, Eaton grabbing his shoulder and Blair his knee as play continued at the other end with Young slamming an alley-oop pass to give Pitt its first lead at 27-26.
When play was stopped, Eaton slammed his right hand onto the floor in frustration. Blair, with blood smeared on his white jersey and shorts, briefly went to Pitt's locker room before returning with a wrap on in his left wrist.
The Panthers, who have that certain confident swagger, huddled in the hallway outside their locker before tipoff.
"All in!" they hollered before taking the floor.
Forty minutes later, they were.