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February 2, 2008

Pitt slips at UConn

The Pitt men's basketball team had too much to overcome, in a 60-53 loss to UConn, at the XL Center in Hartford. Pitt drops to 17-5 overall, 5-4 in the Big East, while the Huskies improve to 16-5 overall, and 5-3 in the Big East.

DeJuan Blair and Sam Young both had a strong second half for the Panthers. Young had 11 of his 18 points in the second half, while Blair had 11 of his 13 in the half as well. He also had 13 rebounds in the game. In three games against Duke, Georgetown, and now UConn, Blair has a combined 43 points, 42 rebounds.

A.J. Price led the Huskies with 21 points. Craig Austrie, normally a 23-percent three-point shooter, was 3-of-6 from three-point range. The Huskies have won five in a row, including wins over ranked teams Marquette, Indiana, and now Pitt.

"We put ourselves in position (to win)," Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said "They made shots, and simply, we didn't. We just have to make the plays, and get shots. They were the ones that did it, not us. We took care of the ball, did a good job rebounding. It's a tough loss for us because we did some good things. We simply didn't get it done. We had some open threes we didn't knock down. You can't go 2-of-16 in this place

"They made their free throws, their shots at the end. Those are the things that separate you in a close game. It's there at the end. You have to make the plays. They did. We battled, we played hard. We played physical. Our interior defense was pretty good. Their perimeter guys hurt us off the dribble."

Pitt's last lead was at 43-42, with six minutes left in the game. Austrie's three-pointer with two minutes left, put the Huskies up 54-51. That was as close as the Panthers got, as UConn converted its free throws down the stretch, while the Panthers could not connect on three-pointers.

Both teams made 19 field goals. This, despite the Panthers attempting 16 more field goals. That of course leads to a higher shooting percentage for the Huskies, and should stand for more than a seven-point deficit. The Huskies 14 turnovers, nine of those coming in the first half. Pitt also had a 13-4 edge in second chance points, most in part to DeJuan Blair's dominance on the offensive boards. Pitt had 16 offensive rebounds to UConn's seven. Blair had nine alone.

In its three conference losses this season, the Huskies have had a significant difference in three-point shooting percentage, from the opponent. Today, the Panthers were just 2-of-16 from three-point range, while the Huskies were 4-of-11. Despite Blair's strong inside game, UConn blocked 10 shots, the fourth time this season they have blocked 10 or more shots in a game.

Both teams were tied at 22-22, at the end of the first half. Pitt was doing everything right early, then struggled towards the end of the half. It seemed Pitt was on top of every loose ball, while UConn had a lot of turnovers. The Panthers built a 19-11 lead early, thanks to eight field goals on seven assists. This was all in the first 12 minutes. Pitt also built two eight-point leads, which they never saw in the second half.

Connecticut closed the gap late in the half, to 21-19 with just under three minutes left. Ronald Ramon picked up his second foul of the game with seven minutes left in the half With Ramon on the bench; the Panthers missed all seven shots from the field, for the remainder of the half. Ramon didn't return until the second half, and didn't attempt his first field goal until he connected on a three-pointer

Pitt returns to action on Thursday night, as they host West Virginia at the Petersen Events Center. The five-day layoff is Pitt's longest since entering conference play. The Panthers also five days off after its next game, as they host Providence on February 12.


Tony Greco can be contacted at pittpath@hotmail.com.





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