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Blair huge again as Pittsburgh pounds DePaul

Feb 22, 2009 - 7:15 AM PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- After roughing up No. 1 Connecticut and Hasheem Thabeet earlier in the week, DeJuan Blair continued his onslaught.

Blair had 20 points and 18 rebounds as fourth-ranked Pittsburgh continued an impressive stretch with an 80-61 victory over DePaul on Saturday.

Sam Young scored 16 points and Tyrell Biggs added 13 for the Panthers (25-2, 12-2 Big East), who claimed their seventh straight win.

Amid the winning streak is a 76-68 triumph at the top-ranked Huskies on Monday, one where Blair created some waves with a dominating effort of 22 points and a career-high 23 rebounds as he overshadowed Connecticut big man Thabeet.

With that win and the losses of both second-ranked Oklahoma and No. 3 North Carolina on Saturday, Pittsburgh is now a strong favorite to move back atop the coaches' poll. The Panthers were ranked No. 1 for two weeks starting on January 5.

"Anytime you beat the No. 1 team in the country at their place, you're going to have confidence," Blair said. "We treat every game as if it were our last. We play hard as a team and we're all confident. That's how we win."

The sophomore carried over the momentum of his impressive effort against the Huskies to Saturday, compiling 16 points and 16 rebounds in the first half to stake Pittsburgh to a 40-30 lead.

"I was aware of my numbers at halftime," Blair said. "I thought it was pretty good, but it's great that everyone got to play."

The Panthers, who next have consecutive road games at Seton Hall and Providence before finishing out the regular season at home against Marquette and UConn, scored 16 of the first 18 points of the second half to put the contest away.

"We did just want we thought we were going to do tonight and hurt them inside," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said.

Biggs had six points during the dominant run out of intermission, going on to finish 6-of-10 from the field with five rebounds for Pittsburgh, which shot 46 percent (32-of-69).

"I thought in the second half Tyrell Biggs got some good rebounding points," Dixon said. "He was putting up the short shots and getting some putbacks, the 3-pointers will come. We'd like to see him get more offensive rebounds and finishing on some of those inside shots. That will make him a better player and us a better team."

Blair finished 9-of-17 from the field en route to scoring 20 or more points for the fourth time in his last seven games and pulled down 10 offensive boards.

"DeJuan is a special kid," DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright said. "He has a great feel for playing and we just got beat up inside."

Dar Tucker scored 18 points, grabbed eight rebounds and handed out five assists for the Blue Demons (8-19, 0-14), who remained the lone winless team in the Big East.

Will Walker had 17 points and Jeremiah Kelly added 11 for DePaul, which was hammered on the boards by 49-25 margin.

"Pitt is very efficient in what they do; they are always a hard match," Wainwright said. "This game was dictated in on glass. You can have your confidence destroyed there but I don't think that's happened to any of our players. These kids face the relentless pressure this league brings. Every time they play they are fighting for their lives."