PITT SURVIVES 16-SEED CHALLENGE
March 21, 2009
Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams, no 16-seed has ever beaten a #1 seed. While Pittsburgh never trailed ETSU in the second half of their first round match-up on Friday, the Panthers were definitely ripe for the picking in this one as 2009 March Madness looked to claim its largest victim yet.
ETSU had the ball, trailing by just two at 59-57 with 4:14 remaining after a Sam Young turnover. The Buccaneers failed to convert and Pitt went on an 8-2 run in the next three-minutes, capped by freshman Ashton Gibbs’ three-pointer to match Pitt’s largest lead of eight points, 67-59, and finally allowing Pitt to breathe easy as they won 72-62.
DeJuan Blair was a monster inside, scoring 27 points a grabbing 16 rebounds, to lead Pitt to the opening round win, but they had to fight hard to avoid being the first victim of a 16-seed upset.
“Every team is going to give us their best,” Blair said following the game. “We just have to keep playing, and we just are going to have to find ourselves and we're going to come out strong this game.”
Sam Young added 14 points and 13 rebounds as Pitt held a 47-44 rebounding edge in the game. However, it was ETSU that gobbled up second-chance points, outscoring Pitt 25-7 on the strength of their 20 offensive rebounds.
“The next game, when we come out we've got to bring a little more effort to make sure that don't happen again,” said Young.
That next game will be Sunday, against Oklahoma State, a 77-75 winner of Tennessee earlier in the day in Dayton.
A key to the Pitt win on Friday was the bench production. The Panther bench outscored the ETSU subs 22-4, with freshman Ashton Gibbs scoring 10.
“He played, obviously, very well. 10 points, didn't miss a shot, [and] two assists,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said of Gibbs’ contribution in the win.
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