Pittsburgh-Connecticut: Panthers Send Huskies a "Big" East Wake-Up Call

Darren FeeneyCorrespondent IFebruary 17, 2009

DeJuan Blair wanted to send Hasheem Thabeet and No. 1 Connecticut (24-2, 12-2) a message early on: He has a lot of things—size, strength, agility, offensive skill, and a very physical style of play.

One thing he doesn't have?

Extremely long arms.

He nearly took one of Thabeet's in his best Brock Lesnar impersonation.

In a grown-man rebound, Blair flipped over a reaching-in Thabeet 3:15 into the game, sending the seven-foot center crashing as the UConn faithful's hearts skipped a beat.

Thabeet would return shortly, but Blair's 22 points and 23 rebounds powered No. 4 Pittsburgh (24-2, 11-2) to a 76-68 victory Monday night, the Panthers' first victory over a top-ranked team.

Coming off a 25-point, 20-rebound, nine-block effort against Seton Hall, Thabeet finished with five points on 1-for-5 shooting and had four rebounds and two blocks. Blair, along with Sam Young (25 points), were too physical in the frontcourt, eventually fouling out Thabeet in a limited 23 minutes.

A non-factor for nearly 37 minutes, Levance Fields picked an opportune time to score his first points of the evening. Tied 61-61 with 3:09 remaining, Fields drained back-to-back three-pointers and hit four free throws down the stretch.

A.J. Price had 18 points for the Huskies, playing their second game without guard Jerome Dyson.  Dyson, averaging 13.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game, underwent surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee on Monday and will miss the rest of the season.