With DeJuan Blair out with a knee injury, Sam Young had to do quite a bit of rotating around on the court to help Pittsburgh win its last time out.
Young likely won’t be asked to change positions as much Friday, as Blair is expected to return for the fourth-ranked Panthers when they play high-scoring Texas Tech in the Legends Classic at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Blair developed right knee inflammation after scoring a career-high 27 points and grabbing a season-high 18 rebounds in Pittsburgh’s 86-60 win over Division II Indiana (Pa.) on Saturday. He practiced Monday, but sat out the Panthers’ 74-60 victory over Belmont on Tuesday.
An MRI and X-rays showed no damage, but Pitt (5-0) coach Jamie Dixon was cautious because the 6-foot-7, 265-pound Blair had reconstructive surgery on both knees while playing at Pittsburgh’s Schenley High School.
Blair, a sophomore who is averaging 17.5 points and 13.3 rebounds (third-best in the nation), is set to return for the two games in two nights in New Jersey.
With Blair out on Tuesday, Young alternated between center, small forward and power forward and he excelled. Young, a unanimous selection to the preseason all-Big East team, finished with a career-high 33 points on 13-of-17 shooting, seven rebounds and two steals.
“I took it as a challenge,” said Young, who had a season-low nine points on 4-of-10 shooting on Tuesday. “The team was struggling a little bit and I definitely took it as a challenge. … Coach (Dixon) said during a time-out I needed to be more aggressive. I got some great looks after that and I took advantage.”
With the return of Blair, Pitt should be at full strength for the first time all season.
Sophomore forward Gilbert Brown, who averaged 6.5 points last season, returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing the first four games with a foot injury. He went scoreless and had four rebounds in 15 minutes, and should have a better feel on the court on Friday.
Pitt is trying to open with six straight wins for the seventh straight season. This will be the first time the Panthers play outside of Pittsburgh this season, and they went 6-1 in neutral site games in 2007-08.
This will be the first meeting between Pittsburgh and Texas Tech (5-0).
The Red Raiders are coming off Tuesday’s 74-63 win over Southeastern Louisiana. Texas Tech, which is averaging 101.4 points per game, has not opened with six consecutive victories since winning their first seven games in 1995-96.
John Roberson scored a game-high 20 points on Tuesday, while Alan Voskuil added 18. Roberson and Voskuil are leading the Red Raiders in scoring, averaging 16.0 points apiece.
Texas Tech went 4-3 against ranked teams last season, and split its two games against Top 5 opponents. The Red Raiders have won just three of their last 16 games against ranked teams in neutral sites, however.
The winner of this game will play the winner between Washington State and Mississippi State on Saturday night.