#4 Pittsburgh 70, #1 Connecticut 60
The Pitt Panthers probably won't win the Big East regular season title, but after beating down Connecticut for the second time this season, they left the impression that they are the team to watch from the nation's deepest conference.
The championship went to Louisville, though the Cardinals have to thank the Panthers for their good fortune. Louisville (15-2) has only to wrap up against West Virginia at 9:00 pm ET tonight, though the outcome of that game has limited meaning, since the Cardinals beat Pitt in their only meeting of the season, 69-63, January 17 at Lousiville.
If the Cardinals win, there's no argument, as the Huskies and Panthers each have 3 conference losses.
Pitt built up a big lead early thanks to hot shooting and solid defense, keeping the Huskies in catch-up mode throughout the game.
The Huskies led only twice, at 2-0 and 12-11. Brad Wannameker's 3-pointer made it 23-13 with just under 12:00 left in the first half. Wannamaker, a sophomore guard, has been a valuable addition off the bench all season in Pitt's stacked back court, which includes Levance Fields (leads the NCAA in turnover ratio) and Jermaine Dixon, younger brother of Maryland's Juan Dixon, who lead the Terrapins to a national championship in 2002.
UConn's Hasheem Thabeet kept the Huskies in the game with 14 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks in the first half, but Pitt's senior forward Sam Young was more than equal to the task with 16 first half points and five boards. Pittsburgh led by 10 at the break, 38-28, holding UConn to just 34% shooting (11-32).
Pitt led by as many as 14 points twice in the second half, but UConn battled back and when Stanley Robinson elevated for a dunk at 8:26, the Huskies were down by just 2 points, 52-50. Pitt responded with a 9-3 run, punctuated by Sam Young's jam and three-point play at 4:41, to make the score 61-53. After Levance Fields made it 63-53 with under 4 minutes to play, it was all but over.
Playing in his final home game, Sam Young was sensational, leading the Panthers with a season-high 31 points and 10 rebounds. Wannamaker pitched in with 13 from the bench and Fields scored 10 while dishing 12 assists.
Pitt's two wins over Connecticut both occurred when the Huskies were ranked #1 in the national polls. It should now be clear to both voters and fans which team is superior. The Panthers will be in search of a #1 seed in the NCAA tourney as they make their way through this week's Big East tournament. Right now, they clearly look like the best team in the country, finishing undefeated at home, handing UConn their only road loss of the season in the process.