Thursday, March 05, 2009
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No. 3 Pittsburgh beats No. 13 Marquette 90-75

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[March 05, 2009]  PITTSBURGH (AP) -- DeJuan Blair scored 23 points and was dominating inside during a decisive 21-2 run after No. 3 Pittsburgh fell behind by nine points early in the second half, and the Panthers rallied to beat No. 13 Marquette 90-75 on Wednesday night.

Pitt set up a Big East showdown against No. 1 Connecticut on Saturday that eventually might decide one -- or two -- of the four top seeds in the NCAA tournament.

The Golden Eagles (23-7, 12-5) opened the second half with a 21-5 run that gave them a 57-48 lead.

HardwareThe Panthers (27-3, 14-3) weren't flustered by the kind of turnaround they may see again in postseason play, quickly answering with a 9-0 surge finished off by Blair's dunk to tie it at 57.

After that, it was Marquette that couldn't find an answer to Pitt's inside-out game, with point guard Levance Fields pulling up for jumpers or making outlet passes to Blair and Sam Young for quick baskets before the Panthers made Marquette work for points at the other end.

Fields had 17 points and 10 assists, Young scored 18 and Jermaine Dixon had 13 points as Pitt won its 20th in a row at home and moved to 18-0 at the Petersen Events Center this season.

Jerel McNeal scored 23 points and Lazar Hayward had 22, but the Golden Eagles lost their third in a row -- all to teams in the top six, previously losing to UConn and Louisville -- and all since senior point guard Dominic James broke a bone in his foot. Wesley Matthews added 16 points but Maurice Acker, filling it for James, was held to six.


McNeal was 8-of-24 from the field after going 3-of-19 while scoring 10 points in the 62-58 loss to Louisville on Sunday.

Tyrell Biggs put Pitt ahead to stay by scoring inside with 11:04 remaining, making it 63-61, and Fields converted a three-point play ahead of another close-range basket by Blair to make it 69-63. After that, Gilbert Brown hit a 3 and added two long jumpers, Fields hit a fallaway and Blair made two free throws as a sellout crowd began chanting, "We Want UConn, We Want UConn!"

The Panthers will get the Huskies again, the second time they have had a chance to knock off UConn while top-ranked this season. Pitt ascended to the No. 1 ranking after beating Connecticut 76-68 on Feb. 16 -- the first win in school history over a No. 1 team -- but fell out of the top spot this week after losing at Providence eight days later.

The Panthers led by as many as 10 points in the first half and were up 43-36 at halftime.

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Marquette, which easily beat the Panthers last season before losing to them in the Big East tournament, scored the first seven points of the second half -- part of the 21-5 run that lasted less than 5 minutes.

Matthews started the comeback with consecutive baskets and scored nine points during a run that was ended by McNeal's 3-pointer.

The surge briefly quieted a loud, sign-waving sellout crowd that was revved up by the surprise pregame announcement that Pitt assistant coach Brandin Knight's No. 20 jersey would become one of only four retired by the school. The point guard led Pitt's resurgence from 1999-2003, twice leading the Panthers to Big East regular season titles.

The Panthers still could win this title, but only if they beat UConn and No. 6 Louisville loses Saturday to West Virginia.

[Associated Press; By ALAN ROBINSON]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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