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Great win raises stakes for Pitt

February 17, 2009 - Neil Rudel

You don't have to be a Pitt basketball historian to know that last night's win at No. 1 UConn -- the Panthers' first-ever win over the nation's top-ranked team -- ranks at or near the top of the best victories in Pitt history.

The Panthers were incredibly impressive.

DeJuan Blair may be the most valuable player in the country, certainly right there with Blake Griffin of Oklahoma. Blair deserves to be a first-team All-American, and his performance Monday night (22 points, 23 rebounds) underlined that.

Sam Young, too, did his share before Levance Fields overcame an uneven game to score 10 late points, including a pair of clutch 3-pointers that put Pitt over the top.

This victory in perhaps the first of three meetings with UConn (Nov. 7 at the Pete and possibly in the Big East title game) raises the stakes for the Panthers, who are staring hard at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The pressure will be squarely on Jamie Dixon to advance the Panthers deeper than the Sweet 16, which has tripped them up repeatedly over the past several years.

And the time is now. With Fields and Young seniors, and the possibility Blair's stock will never be higher and thus make him look hard at the NBA after this season, anything less than a trip to the Final Four will be a disappointment.


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