Nov. 25, 2008
PITTSBURGH, Pa. (AP) - On defense, he played inside. On offense, he went outside, inside and in-between. No matter where Sam Young went, Belmont couldn't handle him.
Afterward, Belmont - the team that almost upset Duke in last season's NCAA tournament - couldn't help but wonder what it would have been like to play Pittsburgh with both Young and DeJuan Blair on the court.
Young scored 33 points despite not getting his first basket until more than 11 minutes into the game and No. 4 Pitt's tight defense shut down Belmont's outside shooting during a 74-60 victory on Tuesday night.
Young scored all but two points during a 12-2 Pittsburgh run that gave the Panthers (5-0) a 51-37 lead with 14:11 remaining, following up on a similar burst in the first half in which he scored 13 of Pitt's 14 points in less than 4 1/2 minutes.
"I took it as a challenge," Young said, referring to the Panthers' ragged start without the injured Blair. "The team was struggling a little bit and I definitely took it as a challenge. ... Coach (Jamie Dixon) said during a time-out I needed to be more aggressive. I got some great looks after that and I took advantage."
He also took advantage of some Belmont confusion. With Blair out with right knee inflammation, Young alternated between center, small forward and power forward, switching spots so often he sometimes questioned if he was in the right place.
"I haven't played there (center) since I was in high school," Young said, although Dixon said he also played there against Syracuse last season.
Blair, averaging 17.5 points, developed right knee inflammation after having 27 points and 18 rebounds during an 86-60 win over Division II Indiana (Pa.) on Saturday - Pitt's second game in less than 24 hours. He practiced Monday, and his teammates didn't learn until their pregame shootaround he wouldn't play.
Pitt is being cautious because Blair had two knee injuries in high school. Blair had an MRI exam Tuesday, will have X-rays on Wednesday and is listed as day to day. Pitt plays again Friday in Newark against Texas Tech.
"I think this was a missed opportunity for us, without the big kid in there," Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. "He would have been a dominating player against a team like ours."
Belmont (1-2) was attempting to follow up 2007-08 upsets of Cincinnati and Alabama but couldn't handle Young when it was on defense or Pitt's quickness when it had the ball.
"We're playing against guys that are quick, can jump and are athletic," Byrd said. "We hurried (shots) a little bit. If we had shot like we expect to and hope to ..."
The Bruins usually thrive with 3-pointers, but were only 9-of-29 (31 percent) beyond the arc while shooting 28.8 percent (21-of-73) to Pitt's 62.2 percent (28-of-45). Matthew Dotson scored 16 and Alex Renfroe had 12 for Belmont, which came into the game shooting 41.1 percent from 3-point range.
Pitt point guard Levance Fields had 17 points, five rebounds and five assists and was 4-of-5 as Pitt made 6 of 12 attempts from 3-point range.
Pitt clearly missed Blair inside, getting outrebounded 44-34, yet that didn't seem to matter.
"We kept getting the ball to Sam at the right spots and he kept putting it in," said Dixon, whose team is 5-0 for a sixth consecutive season.
Young scored all 15 of his first-half points in the final 8:40, helping Pitt open a 37-31 halftime lead. The 6-foot-6 forward stepped outside to hit 3-pointers on successive possessions after Belmont tied it at 20 and 23, then scored six of the seven points during a brief 7-0 Pitt run.
Young is the first Pitt player to score 30 or more since Carl Krauser had 32 against Syracuse on Jan. 24, 2006. Young's previous career high was 28 points against Seton Hall on Jan. 12.
Belmont also was without one of its top players, Shane Dansby, who missed a second successive game with a sprained ankle.
Pitt forward Gilbert Brown returned after missing the first four games with a foot injury, but went scoreless in 15 minutes.
Panthers Take Down Penn State
VIDEO: PantherVision 1-on-1 with Coach Stallings
GAME NOTES: Panthers Play Penn State Saturday in Newark
Pitt Tops Buffalo, 84-79, for Fifth Straight Home Win
GAME NOTES: Pitt Returns to Action Wednesday Against Buffalo
Pitt Falls to Duquesne in City Game