FIELDS KNOWN AS 'MR. BIGSHOT' AT PITT
By Zach Smart
Levance Fields, the Brooklyn native who's adopted the nickname "Mr. Big Shot" from his teammates, canned two titanic three-pointers over Kemba Walker and then Craig Austrie in the final, defining three minutes of their win over UConn.
Fields, a senior and floor general who's operated a number of potent Pitt offenses, had been an arctic 0-for-8 until his two clutch, late-game daggers.
Fields scored 10 crucial points in those three crucial minutes, en route to handing the nation's top-ranked team just their second loss of the season.
The win snaps UConn's 13-game win streak.
"I told Levance to just keep shooting and to be ready to take the big shot when we need it," said Pitt junior Jermaine Dixon, who scored 11 points and handed out five assists in 24 minutes.
"We expect him to come through in the clutch, and he did that tonight."
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Dixon, a 6-foot-3 guard, is the younger brother of NBA player Juan Dixon.
Juan Dixon, who had a storied stay at the University of Maryland-leading the Terps to a national championship in 2002-had some advice for lil bro, whom he spoke with via cell phone before the game: "Be ready."
If anyone was ready in this ultra-physical, black-and-blue marked dog fight, it was Blair.
The 6-foot-7 widebody simply destroyed Thabeet, pounding the ball into the paint and permeating the teeth of the defense.
On mano y mano and back to the basket moves, Blair made the highly-touted Thabeet, who's projected to be a top-five pick in the 2009 NBA draft, look D-league bound. During one wild sequence in the first half, he nearly flipped the 7-foot-3 behemoth while wrestling for a rebound. The game was halted, but Thabeet was fine.
After erupting for a near triple-double and swatting nine shots in a win over Seton Hall on Saturday, Thabeet scored a meager five points and was just 1-for-5 from the floor. He registered two blocks, committed three turnovers, and was whistled for five fouls.
Thabeet picked up his fourth foul with 11:20 remaining, prompting an irate Jim Calhoun to scream his lungs out at referee Mike Kitts, whose suspect call instigated a chorus of boos.
Sam Young, he of the patented shot fake, led all scorers with 25 points. Young shot a sublime 8-for-13 from the field, and the offensive pace of Young and Blair seemed overwhelming.
They served as a two-man wrecking crew in the second half, though it was the 5-foot-9 Fields who emerged with the late-game heroics.
"We started calling him 'Mr. Big Shot,' said Young of his teammate.
"Even in pickup games and in practice, he's always looking to take the last shot, the big shot. He's always telling us, 'I'm taking the big shot. At the end of the game, the ball's going to be in my hands.'"
On a colossal stage in easily the biggest game in college basketball this season, Fields lived up to his nickname.
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