DAYTON, OHIO -- Two halves, two entirely opposite performances for the Pittsburgh Panthers. And if they'd been played in reverse order -- coming out strong early and petering off late -- it would likely be Oklahoma State moving on to the second round. But it was the Cowboys who came out hot, burning the nets with a barrage of threes (10 of 16) through the first 20 minutes. And it was
"There's going to be times when [opponents] make shots," Pitt coach
On Friday it was Moses who had told SI, "I think size is perhaps given too much credit versus playing with heart and playing with ability." Of course, he tacked on a qualifier: "I think size is overrated -- unless you're playing DeJuan Blair."
More importantly, he says he's back to 100 percent health. He even indulged reporters after the game by running down a checklist of potential injuries that might be -- but aren't -- bothering him. The finger he jammed seconds before the first half ended against OSU? "Aw, that's nothing," he said. Proof of that: he came back on the following possession to drain a three-pointer with three seconds left. He also went unaffected by a mid-court collision with Moses. (More on that later.) "And the other injury," he joked afterward, meaning the groin tweak that's been nagging him. "Nope. Not affecting me."
In the coming year they'll have to replace Terrel, as well as Eaton at the point. But they already have one capable fill-in in mind in
Sam Young, easily. On an afternoon when Blair's contributions were limited to just one point and three rebounds in the first half, the senior forward was about the only thing Pitt had to counter OSU's first-half, three-point barrage. "That's the thing about this team," Pitt's
With the Cowboys focusing most of their attention on Blair -- and with the best thing OSU could throw at him being the 6-foot-6 Moses -- Young was free to work against smaller bodies. Often it was Moses chasing Blair, but 6-5 guard
A perfect example came six minutes into the second half. With Moses out on the wing defending Blair on a jump shot, Young gobbled up a miss amidst a closing crowd of undersized Cowboy defenders and powered home a lay-up through a swarm of arms. With the basket and subsequent free throw, Pitt pulled ahead by five for its biggest lead to that moment.
From courtside, Fields' second half collision with Moses looked a little fishy, particularly when Young leaned to the downed point guard's level, whispered something, and came away smiling.
Afterward, Fields revealed how the exchange had gone. "[Sam] said, 'You're playing it up, right?' 'Yeah,' I said. I was playing it up." He added, "Someone probably should have warned me about that [pick]. Thank goodness I'm not the smallest guy in the league."
For Pitt it's Xavier, which beat up on Wisconsin, another team with big bodies, 60-49, on Sunday. That match-up should make headlines alone for the fact that the Musketeers are coached by former Pitt star
X's and O's-wise, all the talk will be about Xavier's lack of a true point guard, which could cause some problems against the Panthers, who are happy to slow things down to a half court pace.
In the hallway outside of his team's locker room, though, Blair was thinking of the even bigger picture. As the Louisville team literally woofed and growled through a team huddle, Blair smiled. "I hope we get them down the line. I really do."