DeJuan Blair blocks a shot by Siena's Alex Franklin . (AP)
Dec. 17, 2008
PITTSBURGH (AP)-- DeJuan Blair took control inside with 21 points and 16 rebounds, Sam Young and Tyrell Biggs scored 14 points each and No. 3 Pittsburgh came out strong in each half to stay undefeated with a 79-66 victory over Siena on Wednesday night.
The Panthers are 11-0 for the second straight season and the third time in the last four. They twice led by 11 points in the first half before starting the second half with a 16-3 run that stretched their lead to 53-32.
Siena (5-4) had won three straight with most of the players who helped the Saints upset Vanderbilt in last season's NCAA tournament, but didn't get closer than five points after the opening few minutes. The 13-point margin of victory matched Pitt's smallest this season.
The Saints never found a way to slow Blair, who is undersized for a top-conference center at 6-foot-7 but was the nation's leading offensive rebounder coming in with a 5.9 average. As usual, he was strong at the offensive end with eight rebounds and missed only four of 14 shots.
The Panthers, coming off a 91-56 rout of Maryland-Baltimore County, opened leads of 15-4 and 17-6 on baskets by Young before Siena got within 19-14. Young's three-point play made it 37-23 with 1:19 left in the half before the Saints' Josh Duell and Kyle Downey hit 3-pointers in the final minute of the half.
Pitt regained the momentum by scoring 11 consecutive points as part of the 16-3 run to start the second half, with Levance Fields getting the first two baskets before Young scored on a windmill dunk. Young finished the run with a three-point play after scoring on Pitt's previous possession.
With Fields contributing 11 points, six assists and four rebounds, Pitt won its 37th consecutive home game against a nonconference opponent and its 86th in its last 88 at home outside the Big East.
Clarence Jackson and Edwin Ubiles had 12 points each and Downey added 11 for Siena, which shot 40 percent (26-of-65) and was outrebounded 47-36.
Siena has never beaten a top 10 team, but one of the biggest victories in school history came at Pitt 20 years ago -- an 80-79, last-second upset of a Panthers team that went 24-7 and finished the regular season ranked No. 8. That loss was the first of three early season defeats for the Panthers and, despite going to the NCAA tournament, they finished 17-13.
Wednesday's home game started unusually late 9:30 p.m. to accommodate TV and was Pitt's last until Jan. 11 against St. John's. The Panthers have played only two games off campus, in neutral-site Newark against Texas Tech and Washington State, but they travel to Florida State, Rutgers and Georgetown for their next three.