Monday, February 16, 2009

No. 1 UConn vs. No, 4 Pittsburgh Live Blog

Welcome to another edition of the OuttaThePahk Live Blog. Tonight, we check in on the biggest regular season game to date, as No. 4 Pittburgh faces the top-ranked Huskies for the first of two meetings this season to decide the Big East regular season championship.

For UConn, tonight is the first true test of their new normal, with Jerome Dyson now officially out for the season. Hasheem Thabeet seems poised to take the scoring load on his broad shoulders, but he will be challenged tonight by a supremely confident DeJuan Blair. Levance Fields and A.J. Price will spar in the undercard.


Pitt 76-68, Final: Pitt beats a No. 1 for the first time. We'll see what Thabeet's answer is in early March.

Pitt 71-63, 30.3: Blair talked the talk and stomped the stomp tonight. His domination of Hasheem Thabeet ends with an emphatic block and the drawing of Thabeet's fifth foul. Blair has 22 points and 23 rebounds. Thabeet: 5 and 5.

Pitt 69-63, 52.8: Pitt gets a huge break, with Young rebounding a desperation three by Fields as the shot-clock ran out. Gets its break when Robinson picks up a turnover and is fouled, but Pitt gets the final break of the night, when Robinson missed the front end of a 1-and-1.

Pitt 67-63, 1:38: Kemba Walker excites on the court, and he just made a huge end-to-end play, stealing the ball, pitching it ahead and corralling it for a one-man fastbreak layup. The Huskies are still alive. Pitt 67-61, 2:20: Levance Fields had been shut out all night, going 0-for-7 from the field. But he's made his past two and they're both dagger threes to give the Panthers a six-point lead.

Pitt 59-58, 4:20: Jermaine Dixon with a three and a one-point lead.

UConn 58-56, 5:10: Thabeet intimidates Blair into a travel. Can Thabeet make the difference down the stretch?

Tied 56-56, 5:44: Blair is back in the game and back in the scoring column with another three-point play to tie the score. Thabeet comes back in with four fouls.

UConn 56-51, 7:13: The Huskies are playing with enormous energy right now, literally tearing the ball out of Pittsburgh's hands. Jeff Adrien is showing the nation his game tonight, giving the Huskies their biggest lead with a wing jumper and imposing his will on defense. UConn on an 11-2 run.

UConn 52-49, 9:00: Kemba Walker does finish the break and UConn leads. Then Stanley Robinson takes Blair out of the game with an errant elbow. Robinson then hits to give the Huskies their largest lead. Blair may be knocked out, but the Huskies aren't, a remarkable feat with out Jerome Dyson and essentially without Thabeet.

10:36: Craig Austrie can't finish a fastbreak layup that would have given UConn the lead, but the Huskies get a make-up offensive foul call against Blair at the other end.

Pitt 49-48, 11:20: Wow. Just ... wow. Mike Kitts calls Thabeet for his fourth foul on an offensive foul in the paint with the ball 30 feet from the basket. Jim Calhoun turned about five different colors. What a brutal, brutal call in a big game. UConn has still not led since 3-2.

Pitt 49-45: 12:00: Biggs picks up his fourth foul and Adrien continues his assault with a strong drive to the basket. But Young (21 points) hits his fourth three pointer to push the lead back to four.

Pitt 46-43, 13:37: Jeff Adrien is starting to make his presence felt with four straight points and a strong defensive possession against the hard-charging Blair. Thabeet is set to come back in, and he must assert himself against Blair to give the Huskies a real chance.

Pitt 41-37 17:06: Blair keeps the good times rolling with another tough post move and another rebound, giving him 17 and 16. But fouls are also piling up, with Young and Tyrell Biggs each drawing their third.

Pitt 38-36, 19:03: Craig Austrie pulls the Huskies into a tie with a transition three, but Thabeet picks up his third foul and comes out of the game.


Pitt 36-33, Halftime: Huge shot at the shot-clock buzzer with three seconds left by A.J. Price to keep the Huskies close. Price was forced to shoot an off-balance three with a man draped on him as the clock reached zero and he buired it. Price has 15 at the half to counter Blair. Blair helped UConn at the end of the half with a foolish attempt at a long range step-back, setting up that final possession and Price's three. Blair played like Bill Russell and Thabeet looked like Frederick Weis. If Thabeet returns to normal and Blair returns to earth, this game is still UConn's for the taking.

Pitt 34-28, 1:53: Blair is totally backing up his pregame trash talk, shrugging off a Thabeet block by again scoring inside and drawing Thabeet's second foul. It's all Blair, all the time, and Thabeet is riding the pine.

Pitt: 31-28, 2:13: Blair continues to dominate Thabeet at the offensive end, taking it to the Huskies big man to record a first-half double-double. Thabeet has looked passive tonight, even before Blair flipped him early in the game. If not for a huge disparity in fouls (9-3 Pitt), UConn might be down double-digits right now.

Pitt 29-26, 4:10: Blair really getting going against Thabeet, now hitting a turnaround jumper for eight points and 10 rebounds in the half. Pitt 25-24, 5:43: Gavin Edwards continues his active play in big games, picking up a loose ball after Thabeet kept an offensive rebound alive and scoring to cut the deficit to one. But Blair is taking it to Thabeet at the other end for the second time.

Pitt 23-20: 7:49: A.J. Price is heating up, hitting his second three to give him 10 points. For all the talk about the big men, it's Young and Price from the outside that has dominated the scoring so far.

Pitt 21-13, 9:09: Ouch, Fields hits Young on a deep alley-oop to force a UConn timeout. Pitt is still getting second-chance points and UConn still turning it over. Not a good combo.

Pitt 17-11, 10:20: ESPN's Doug Gottlieb talked before the game about Pitt's opportunity to find success on the weak side after Thabeet goes for the block, and Tyrell Biggs indeed scores on an offensive rebound for a 17-10 lead. UConn committing a lot of early turnovers.

Pitt, 15-10: 12:08: Thabeet has returned, and makes his presence felt with a monster dunk, but Pitt continues to make hay from the outside with Young, who has 10 points.

Pitt 8-3, 15:27: What in the world was that? It didn't look like a dirty play, but DeJaun Blair practically snapped Hasheem Thabeet's left arm in half with a Hulk Hogan takedown in the paint. It looked awful, but hopefully nothing serious. Stanley Robinson came out aggressive for the Huskies, but Sam Young has been even better as Best Supporting Actor with five points.

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