PITTSBURGH HEADS BACK TO SWEET 16
March 23, 2009
It has been anything but easy, but Pittsburgh will take it and move on to their fifth Sweet 16 appearance in eight years after a 84-76 win over Oklahoma State.
The Panthers struggled past 16-seed ETSU in round one and survived a hot-shooting Cowboy squad that made a late run at Pitt in round two.
"I was proud of how our guys responded to their barrage, really, as I called it afterwards, of the three- pointers in the first half," Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon told the media following the game. "This was not a game they lost it. We had to find a way to win it and we did it by gutting it out and outrebounding them and making big plays."
And, big plays they made.
Following a 9-0 blitz over the course of 1:33 where Oklahoma State wiped out a 71-63 Pitt lead to take a 72-71 lead with just 3:47 left on a pair of Byron Eaton free throws following a Pitt turnover, the Panthers answered with a big play.
Running the shot clock all the way down to the end, senior Levance Fields found classmate Sam Young for a clutch three-pointer to regain the lead at 74-72.
After a Marshall Moses put-back knotted the score at 74, Fields scored five straight, including a corner three following a Pitt time-out in which Young returned the favor.
On the game, Young was spectacular, showing his full arsenal on offense while scoring 32 points. Fields added 13 points, 9 assists and just two turnovers against the OSU pressure.
"[I] can't tell you how proud I am of our three seniors and how they've led us through this one," Dixon said.
Oklahoma State got out of the gate quickly on offense as they were unconscious from beyond the arc, hitting eight of their first 12 and 10 total in the first half alone. But, Pittsburgh did what they do best, out-rebounding the smaller Cowboys 41-21 in the game and holding them to 27 second-half points, with 9 of those coming in that one blitz.
"They were in there scrapping and clawing and doing everything possible they could to rebound," Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said of his team. "It was just we would go up 10 feet and Blair and Young would go up maybe 11 feet.
I thought our kids did everything they could to rebound the
basketball. We blocked out. We did some good things, but Blair and Young seemed to come up with good plays when they needed them."
Pitt now moves on to Boston as they look to advance to the Elite 8 for this first time since 1974. In their way is a familiar face, former Panther point guard Sean Miller who brings his Xavier Musketeers into the contest.
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