Sam, I Am: Young Leads No. 4 Pitt over No. 1 UConn

Hoop WritersContributor IMarch 8, 2009

Written by Todd Parmelee, HoopWriters


Young Once Again Proves He is the Main Man

In the hype before the game, everyone focused on Hasheem Thabeet and DeJuan Blair, the Big East’s top two heavyweights, but it was unheralded Sam Young that provided the marquee performance.   On Senior Day at the Petersen Events Center, Young scored 31 points and added 10 rebounds as No. 4 Pitt defeated No. 1 UConn for the second time this year 70-60. 

Young may be Pitt’s leading scorer on the year, the conference’s reigning Most Improved Player, a preseason All Conference Selection and last year’s Most Outstanding Player in the Big East Tournament, but it is his teammate, DeJuan Blair, that had been receiving the attention of late. 

“Recently it seems that when I see a UConn jersey, my eyes start to light up,” Sam Young who scored 25 points against UConn on Feb. 16th said.  “ I was very focused on this game. I got some good rest last night after getting a few shots up, and just came ready to play today.” Pitt led by 10 going into intermission 38-28.  They survived a UConn run which cut Pitt’s lead to two, 52-50 with less than eight minutes to go.   The Huskies, including Thabeet seemed to run out of energy, as Pitt scored at will in transition.  

Sam Young led the late surge including scoring six of Pitt’s next eight points to give them a 60-53 lead with 4:41 to go. 

On the game Pitt outscored UConn 23 to 16 in transition. 

Hasheem Thabeet put together one of his most dominating offensive performances scoring 14 first half points, but during the second half he looked fatigued and failed to score a point.  Thabeet finished the game with 14 points, 13 rebounds, and five blocked shots. 

Thabeet won the individual rematch versus DeJuan Blair, who finished with just 8 points and 8 rebounds, after having 22 points and 23 rebounds in the match up earlier this year. 

“The difference was fouls,” Blair said. “ This game was called a lot tighter than the last time, and I kind of had to watch myself a little more closely. Thankfully I was still able to do what I had to do to get us a win.”


Blair Punks Thabeet

Yet, Thabeet and Blair literally almost got into a fight in the second half.  It appeared that when Hasheem Thabeet ran by DeJuan Blair, Blair who was on the ground, tried to rap his legs around Thabeet’s foot.  Thabeet nearly went after Blair and he had to be held back. 

"He fell to the floor and he tried to trip me. I was not going to get punked twice (in the first meeting on Feb. 16th, Blair threw Thabeet over his shoulder and on to the floor early in the first half). “He got me the first time, and the second time, I wasn't having it,” Thabeet said about the incident. 

DeJuan Blair had another point of view. 

"He knocked me on the ground. Nobody's gonna knock me to the ground. Batman (Levance Fields) was there to help me, so I was cool,” Blair said.

Batman ( Levance Fields), who was questionable with a bruised lower back, finished the game with 10 points and 12 assists.   

“He [Levance Fields] hadn’t practiced or even shot around in the last two days, but if there’s anyone tough enough to play hurt, it’s him,” Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said.


UConn Fumbles the Ball

If there was someone who should share a brunt of the criticism, it was UConn power forward, Jeff Adrien.  Adrien missed several shots including a dunk in the second half.

Adrien and other Huskies seemed to have a problem with the ball slipping out of their hands.  

“I’ve never been to a game that we’ve lost the ball as much as we did today.” Jim Calhoun said.  “The ball seemed to slip out of our hands a lot”


Price and Walker

A.J. Price led UConn with 19 points, he was 4-8 from behind the arc.   Price played particularly well in the second half, leading UConn’s comeback with a couple late three pointers.  

Kemba Walker provided several critical baskets off penetration and finished with 10 point.   Walker, not known for his three point shooting was 0-4 from beyond the arc.


Next up, Big East Tournament

The loss was pivotal for UConn and will most likely set up another rematch in the Semifinals of the Big East Tournament next Friday.  

UConn, which controlled its own destiny, with a win over Pitt would have clinched them a share of the Big East regular season title, end up finishing in a tie with Pitt for second.   Louisville ended up winning the Big East Championship by knocking off West Virginia on Saturday night to finish 16-2 in conference.

Pittsburgh is the No. 2 seed in the Big East Tournament and will play Thursday at 7pm.  UConn is the No. 3 seed and will play on Thursday around 9pm against the Syracuse vs. SetonHall/South Florida winner. 

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