Sunday, March 22, 2009

These Panthers Don't Like To Let Things Get Dull


There are a lot of things you can say about this Pitt squad right now. Some of them very positive, some of them not as much so. But one thing that I think all of us can agree on is this: They sure aren't boring.

Unlike the preceding Xavier-Wisconsin game that nearly destroyed the credibility of the entire sport of basketball, this game really couldn't have been any more entertaining.

The first half of this sucker resembled a 3-point shootout contest, as OK State shot 98% from the field on 49/50 treys (All statistics approximate) and the Panthers countered with a surprisingly potent long-range game of their own led mostly by the man of the hour, Sam I Am Young.

Thankfully for the score-keepers, the second-half was much more similar to a normal Pitt game. The Cowpokes predictably cooled off early on and Pitt pulled out in front by as much as 9 at one point. DeJuan was finally getting back into a rhythm after causing nearly every Pitt fan the world over to stop breathing for a solid minute after Byron Eaton tripped and dove into his knee Kimo-Von-Oelhoffen-style. And Levance was doing Levance things. And Sam was still filling the basket.

But just when it looked like the Panthers were going to pull away and coast, OK State responded in very impressive fashion, stealing all the momentum in the building from out of nowhere and overwhelming a sloppy Pitt team for multiple turnovers and bearing down offensively on some lackadaisical defensive efforts by the P-i-t-t. We had ourselves a ball game again, especially when OK State briefly seized the lead.

But just then, Levance Fields finally decided to show up for this game, dressed in his Captain Clutch cape. While Fields struggled for much of the game with some lingering injury issues, he got himself going by drilling a weird 3 from the corner immediately after he had just inbounded it to Sammy. Fieldsy quickly followed that up by making a big layup and drilling a stone-cold clutch 3 with less than 2 minutes to go to take the game from a tie to a 5 point lead. Boom goes the dynamite.
After that, Blair and Young would finish off the Cowpokes for an 84-76 W.

You really can't understate how big Sam was today. Sure the 32 points give you a pretty good idea, as does the fact that he had nearly half our points in the ridiculously up-tempo first half. But it was more than just the fact that he was our leading scorer. It was that he answered the bell early on, and was really the only one who did. If he hadn't been feeling it, this would have been like the Providence game all over again.

Eaton, Anderson and company came out gunning for us early, and boy were they gunning. I haven't seen a long-range performance in a half like that since Kevin Pittsnogle was at WVU making incest look cool like we were in 17th century Europe. If we had come out and clanked our response shots and let OSU get up on us and get all the momentum on their side, this game has a whole different outcome. They probably run away with it like the Friars did and embarass the bejeezus out of us.

But not today. Sam wasn't gonna let that happen. Even with DeJuan being shockingly frustrated and Fieldsy struggling for the first 37 minutes or so and the rest of the rotation only being so-so, Sam put this team on his shoulders. This was a performance for the ages here. I'd put it right up there with DeJuan's UConn game or some of the other legendary days in recent Pitt hoops history. Hell, I'd probably put it ahead of any of those now that I think about it because Sam had to carry that team in the first, and OK State knew it. And yet he was still downright beastly.

So for that, Sam I Am, I will be raising a toast to you tonight. Obviously, there is still a lot of work to be done, and you guys now get to look at a very beatable Xavier team for the right to (finally) move on to the Elite 8. But this will go down as your signature game at Pitt, and considering all the big days you have had, that is really saying something.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That boom goes the dynamite guy never stops being funny and awkward. What a celebrty that guy has become