Pittsburgh knocks DePaul out of Big East tournament

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PITTSBURGH (AP)—Pittsburgh threw a party on Senior Day, and just about everybody was invited.

DeJuan Blair led six different Panthers who scored at least 11 points as Pitt closed out its regular season with a 98-79 victory over DePaul on Sunday.

Pitt (22-9, 10-8 Big East), which began the game on a 13-3 run and never trailed, clinched the No. 7 seed in the Big East tournament that begins Wednesday in New York.

“Their balance is what beats you,” DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright said. “Six players in double figures—that’s how you want to play basketball.”

Blair had 22 points and 14 rebounds, Sam Young 19 points and Gilbert Brown 13 for the Panthers, who have won three of their past four games. Seniors Keith Benjamin had 12 points and Ronald Ramon 11, and point guard Levance Fields narrowly missed out on the fourth triple double in Pitt history and first in 10 years. He had 11 points, nine assists and nine rebounds.

“We were pretty efficient on offense and communicated well on defense,” Fields said. “Overall, I think we played pretty well. Everybody was talking, helping one another out. It was a team effort.”

Dar Tucker had 23 points and Draelon Burns had 18 for DePaul (11-19, 6-12), which was eliminated from postseason play in defeat. A win would have given the Blue Demons the 12th and final spot in the conference tournament.

After falling behind by as many as 12 points early in the game, the Blue Demons used an 11-2 run to tie the game at 27 midway through the first half. But Pitt answered with an 8-0 run and never led by less than four points after that.

“It’s a good thing to go out with win like this, especially after the guys worked so hard the past few days trying to get better,” Ramon said. “We were doing a good job focusing on what we need to focus on this time of year.”

Pitt shot 56.1 percent from the field and held a 46-27 edge in rebounding.

“They wore us out inside,” Wainwright said. “Sam Young is a first-team all-conference type of player.”

The Panthers, who lost senior Mike Cook for the season to injury in December and were without Fields for 12 games earlier this season, will play either Cincinnati or Seton Hall on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Madison Square Garden, pending the outcome of games those two teams play later Sunday. With DePaul’s loss, Providence earned a berth in the Big East tournament.

This is the seventh consecutive season the Panthers have had at least 10 wins in conference play. Pitt also appears almost certainly heading to the NCAA tournament for the seventh straight season.

“Winning three of our last four, things are really coming into place for a team that has been through a lot,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “Most teams would have shut down from that. This team has been through more than most but they’ve responded.”

After starting 4-2 in the Big East, the Blue Demons finished its season losing 10 of 12.

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