Come To Think of It: Pitt's Houdini Act Denies East Tenn State's Shot at History

Bob WarjaSenior Writer IMarch 20, 2009

In the history of the NCAA basketball tournament, a No. 16 seed has never defeated a No. 1 seed. But it almost happened in Dayton, Ohio, this afternoon.

In the end, No. 1 seed Pittsburgh beat No. 16 seed East Tennessee State 72-62. But the game was much closer than the score would indicate.

The Panthers didn't really win as much as they escaped.

The lead exchanged hands six times throughout the game, and it was tied nine times. Pitt center DeJuan Blair had a big game, scoring 27 points and pulling down 16 rebounds for the Panthers.

It was the first time that Pitt has been a top seed in the NCAA tournament. But it was almost one for the record books as ETSU had a chance to win until the final two minutes.

Pittsburgh (29-4) will next play eighth-seeded Oklahoma State, who survived an even closer game of their own in a 77-75 win over ninth-seeded Tennessee, in Sunday's second round. The Panthers will need to play better to continue in the tournament.

They made 18 turnovers, and struggled against the pressure ETSU presented. But the Buccaneers shot just 31 percent from the floor. They were led by Kevin Tiggs who scored 21.

Harry Houdini may be long dead, but his spirit was alive and well in Dayton, come to think of it.