for this game

Fields clutch as Blair, Pittsburgh overpower Connecticut

Feb 17, 2009 - 3:56 AM By Kevin Pedersen PA SportsTicker Staff Writer

HARTFORD, Connecticut (Ticker) -- DeJuan Blair dominated his anticipated matchup with Hasheem Thabeet, but it was Levance Fields who made the biggest shots of the game.

Fields made consecutive 3-pointers late in the game and fourth-ranked Pittsburgh received outstanding contributions from Blair and Sam Young to post a 76-68 victory at top-ranked Connecticut on Monday.

Young scored 25 points and Blair finished with 22 and 23 rebounds to power the Panthers (24-2, 11-2 Big East) to their sixth straight win.

With the contest knotted at 61-61, Fields gave Pittsburgh the lead for good with a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 3:09 to play. The senior guard was 0-for-7 prior to the hoop.

"I'm not afraid of that moment," Fields said. "I credit my teammates for having confidence in me. I knew the game was on the line - regardless with what had happened earlier in the game."

After Connecticut failed to score, Fields made another shot from almost the exact same spot to extend the Panthers' lead to 67-61 with 2:21 on the clock.

"I can't say enough about Levance," Panthers coach Jamie Dixon said. "He's made big shots all his career at Pitt, and certainly those two fell into that category."

Freshman Kemba Walker cut the deficit to four and, after Stanley Robinson missed the front end of a one-and-one, Fields connected on two foul shots to make it a 69-63 game with 52 seconds to play. UConn was unable to get any closer the rest of the way.

A.J. Price scored 18 points and Jeff Adrien added 13 and nine rebounds for the Huskies (24-2, 12-2), who had their 13-game winning streak snapped.

"I said it all day, whoever was tougher was going to win the game," Price said. "Coming down the stretch, the last five minutes, their will was tougher than ours."

Thabeet entered the contest averaging 15.8 points, 14.0 boards and 7.2 blocks over his last five games - but the junior managed only five points and four rebounds in 23 minutes against the stronger Blair before fouling out.

"I did not have a good game, he took advantage of that," Thabeet said. "They ended up getting the win. It was not me losing the game, it was UConn basketball losing the game, so we're just looking to the next one."

Pittsburgh owned a 48-31 rebounding advantage, becoming the first team to outrebound Connecticut this season. The Panthers had 18 of their boards on the offensive end.

"I never thought we could win by that many," Dixon said. "Thabeet being in foul trouble was key. You have two of the best rebounding teams in the country. That's what we both do, so whoever won that would win the game.

"I felt we were taking good shots. We believe good offense leads to good offensive rebounding."

The Panthers, who led by as many as eight, took control in the early going and never relinquished the lead prior to the intermission as Blair took over the final stages of the first half.

"He was wonderful. He's a great, great basketball player," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said of Blair. "When he's allowed to roam the post like that and use his physicality in the post, he's absolutely wonderful."

Blair scored his team's last 13 points, using an array of post moves to thwart Thabeet, who picked up his second foul with 1:53 left before the break.

"I came out here with the mindset of me being the underdog, and I just went at it," Blair said about the matchup in the middle. "I tried to get into his chest and I did a good job of that."

Blair's reverse layup gave Pittsburgh a 36-28 advantage, but Connecticut responded to trim the margin to 36-33 at the break as Price drilled a step-back 3-pointer from the right wing two seconds before the halftime buzzer.

Craig Austrie opened the second half with a 3-pointer to knot the game at 36-36 but Pittsburgh regained its slim lead and took a 46-41 edge on Blair's layup with 14:24 left.

Thabeet picked up his fourth foul on a questionable offensive foul call with 11:20 to play but the Huskies chipped away without him and finally took a 50-49 lead on Walker's driving layup with 9:46 remaining.

The Huskies pushed the lead to as many as five, but the Panthers fought back and Jermaine Dixon's 3-pointer put Pittsburgh back in front, 59-58, with 4:30 to play.

"The offense got stagnated at that time, so it's my fault," Calhoun said. "I did a very poor job of substituting in the backcourt. I should have gotten the freshman out of the game.

"We got beat. Jamie Dixon's team came in and beat us."

The rivals meet again in Pittsburgh on March 7 in the regular-season finale for both teams.