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Fields stars in Pitt's rout of Oral Roberts

Mar 21, 2008 - 12:14 AM DENVER (Ticker) -- As if the country was not already aware of it, Levance Fields showed he is completely over his midseason injury.

Fields scored 16 of his season-high 23 points in the first half Thursday as fourth-seeded Pittsburgh rolled to an 82-63 victory over No. 13 Oral Roberts in the first round of the South Regional.

The contest proved over by halftime, as the Panthers took control behind a 24-2 run midway through the first half. Fields had two 3-pointers and 11 points during the burst, which gave Pittsburgh (27-9) a 34-15 advantage with 5:02 remaining.

"Levance took over, basically," Panthers' leading scorer Sam Young said. "Scoring, assists, defense, he just took over the game. There wasn't much any of us had to do. He couldn't miss."

Panthers coach Jamie Dixon credited the run to his team's normally hard-nosed style.

"We were controlling the rebounding, I thought, from the beginning," Dixon said. "And again, we just wanted to continue to make (them) take tough shots, and eventually we would get our transition game going. I thought we got a lot of stuff going in transition. We made some very good passes, made the extra pass, too, once we got some penetration and dump-offs for layups."

"They were really tough, man," Oral Roberts senior swingman Moses Ehambe said. "They were going to the glass tough. They're just a really aggressive team. They played really, really good tonight."

Missing 12 games after breaking his foot in a loss at Dayton on December 29, Fields returned on February 15.

But the junior point guard did not appear to hit his stride until the Panthers won four straight games, topping such teams as Louisville, Marquette and Georgetown en route to winning the Big East Conference tournament title on Saturday. Fields averaged 11.3 points and 5.5 assists during the championship run.

"First of all, he's our point guard," Dixon said of Fields. "He brings a lot of energy. He runs the show. He's a good decision-maker.

"He brings a toughness to us, as well. He's always been our leader, along with Mike (Cook)."

Fields proved his full return on Thursday, making 8-of-15 shots and handing out seven assists.

"I shot over my legs, was able to get some lift," said Fields, who finished with his highest total of field goals since a 21-point effort in a win over Duke on December 20. "(They) went down for me. When you see the ball go through the basket, it helps your confidence.

"I'm a very confident guy either way. But I've been missing since I came back. I was able to knock down open shots today."

Although the Golden Eagles started the second half by scoring 13 of the first 22 points, the Panthers remained in control, taking a 65-39 lead after freshman Gilbert Brown's jumper capped a 9-1 run with 12:20 left.

Young scored 14 points and Brown and Keith Benjamin had 12 apiece for Pittsburgh, which shot 46 percent (32-of-69) in scoring at least 70 points for the fifth time in its last six games.

"Ever since the Big East tournament, I feel like the offense has come more easily," Brown said. "We expect it to come like that. It's just all about us knocking down shots."

Freshman DeJuan Blair added eight points and 10 rebounds for the Panthers, who pounded the Golden Eagles on the boards by a 50-33 margin.

"They manhandled us," Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton said. "Seemed like they got every offensive rebound if they missed."

Pittsburgh advanced to face No. 5 Michigan State in the second round on Saturday.

Leading scorer Robert Jarvis scored 16 points and Andre Hardy added 15 for Oral Roberts (24-9), which lost its fourth straight appearance in the NCAAs dating back to 1984.

"We've played some great teams the last two years in the tournament - Memphis being the No. 1 seed two years ago, then Washington State, a three seed," said Sutton, who has guided the Golden Eagles since 1999. "I think this is the best team we played. So I give them a lot of credit.

"They impressed me today. They were better than I expected."

Ehambe scored 13 points for the Golden Eagles, who shot 25 percent (7-of-28) in the first half to put themselves in the big hole.