Big second half lifts Pittsburgh past ToledoDec 1, 2007 - 10:30 PM By Chris Adamski PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- Pittsburgh cruised through its first six games of the season. For a half at least, it had its hands full with Toledo.
Sam Young had 17 points and 12 rebounds as the No. 11 Panthers overcame a slow start to beat the Rockets going away with a 78-52 victory on Saturday.
Mike Cook added 14 points and freshman DeJuan Blair chipped in 11 and 11 boards for Pittsburgh (7-0), which had outscored opponents by an average of 31 points and had won all but one of its first six contests by at least 27 points before requiring a strong second half in this one.
"I think we came out at little sluggish and they came out ready to play a ranked team," Young said. "They knew they could make a name for themselves off this game, and that's how they played in the first half. We kind of weathered the storm toward end of the game and the second half, but we definitely came out flat."
Toledo (1-6), which had lost five in a row coming in, jumped out to leads of 9-2, 12-4 and 17-10. It did it with some strong outside shooting, making four of its first five 3-point attempts.
However, the Rockets went on to miss 18 of their next 19 from the arc.
"In the second half, we were kind of dog tired," Toledo coach Stan Joplin said. "And there's not much you can do about that. We were running in quicksand against a team that's very strong and athletic.
"That was basically it. We had the same shots in the second half but we just didn't have our legs."
After leading by an average of 20.2 points at halftime to begin the season, Pittsburgh needed to close out the half on a 6-0 run to hold only a 34-28 edge at intermission.
That burst continued after the break, cumulating in an 18-4 run that enabled the Panthers to put the game away.
"We played well in the second half and parts of the first half as well," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. "Our kids were ready; we just didn't play well early. But we did all the things we wanted to do."
Tyrone Kent led all scorers with 22 points for the Rockets, who have not beaten a ranked opponent since upsetting No. 14 Michigan State back on December 30, 2002.
Blair's big game came hours after attending his great-grandfather's funeral. The 6-foot-7 forward, who grew up a few miles from Pitt's campus, attended the morning service and was a pallbearer at the burial in a Pittsburgh neighborhood.
Blair arrived at the arena minutes before tipoff. Tyrell Biggs started at center in his place.
"It was just all for my granddad," Blair said after the game. "Just coming straight from the funeral and being late. ... I couldn't warm up with the team and stuff, but you just play through it, just try not to think about it. I wanted to play for him. I dedicated it to him."
Pittsburgh has started 7-0 for the sixth consecutive season and has won nine in a row at the Petersen Events Center dating back to last season. The Panthers have also won 26 consecutive games against non-conference opponents at home.
"It's going to be very important that we've got to come out more focused and more on the same page (in future games)," Young said. "I think a lot of people's heads were in different places. That was the cause of our slow start, and I just hope we learned our lesson.
"Hopefully, that will never happen again, especially as we start playing better competition."
Toledo was playing its fifth game of a six-game road trip. The Rockets' six-game losing streak is their longest since January 5-22, 2000.
- NCAA BB
FINAL 1ST 2ND TOTAL
--- --- -----
TOLEDO 28 24 52
PITTSBURGH (11) 34 44 78 FINAL
Dec 1 3:56 PM
- NCAA BB
(11) PITTSBURGH 34 HALFTIME
Dec 1 2:53 PM
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