Panthers hope to trip reeling DePaul

By Lauren Kirschman

When the Pitt men’s basketball team and DePaul tip off on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Petersen… When the Pitt men’s basketball team and DePaul tip off on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center, the Panthers will look to remain in the hunt for a Big East regular-season title, while the Blue Demons will search for their first conference win. ‘We’re playing for a No. 1 spot,’ said Pitt guard Jermaine Dixon. ‘We’re trying to win the Big East. You have to win all the games in conference. We’ll be ready for [DePaul].’ No. 4 Pitt (24-2, 11-2 Big East) defeated No. 1 Connecticut 76-68 on Monday, placing the top four teams in the Big East, along with Connecticut, Marquette and Louisville, with two losses in the conference. The victory over Connecticut was arguably the biggest victory of the season for the Panthers and was the program’s first over a No. 1-ranked team. Center DeJuan Blair scored 22 points and pulled down 23 rebounds, Sam Young added a game-high 25 points, and Levance Fields scored 10 points in the last three minutes of the game to push Pitt past Connecticut. Although Fields and Dixon provided key plays for the Panthers down the stretch, the guard play in the win showed room for improvement. ‘Unfortunately for us, we didn’t have one of our better games connecting,’ said Fields. ‘We said we do it when it counts the most, and hopefully we can get back to making some shots on Saturday.’ The victory over Connecticut is not distracting the Panthers from the matchup with DePaul. Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said that, more than anything, the team is anxious to play again. ‘We don’t get too high or too low on losses,’ said Fields. ‘We just come out and play the next game.’ DePaul (8-18, 0-13 Big East) has not won a game since December. Its 99-54 loss to Louisville on Sunday marked the largest margin of defeat in program history. With the defeat, the Blue Demons tied the program’s longest losing streak. Earlier in the month, Blair scored a career-high 32 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the Panthers to a 92-69 victory over DePaul on the road. The 23-point win tied for Pitt’s largest margin of victory in Big East play this season. Against Louisville, the Blue Demons used their 12th different starting lineup this season. Mac Koshwal and Dar Tucker both scored 18 points for the Blue Demons in the defeat. ‘We know DePaul, we just played them a couple weeks ago,’ said Jamie Dixon. ‘They’re starting different lineups, so they’re a little different as far as personnel.’ Tucker is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 18.4 points on the year. Koshwal adds 13.5 points and 10 rebounds per game. ‘We addressed things right after the game [against Connecticut],’ said Dixon. ‘We’re pretty level-headed. One game doesn’t change who we are. We need to do a lot of things better, and I think they understand that.’