02/28/2009 10:42 PM ET
Blair injury nearly dampens Pitt's win
Victory over Pirates almost came at huge price for Panthers
By Adam Zagoria / SNY.tv
Sam Young stepped up for Pitt when DeJuan Blair went down against Seton Hall. (AP)

NEWARK -- When DeJuan Blair fell to the ground after banging knees with Seton Hall's Jeremy Hazell early in the first half Saturday night, a shockwave rippled through the Pittsburgh bench.

"The first thing that comes to mind is, 'Oh my God,'" Pitt senior guard and Brooklyn native Levance Fields said. "He had two ACL injuries in high school. It's a scary sight. You hope for the best."

Pitt watched along with everyone else when Marquette standout Dominic James was lost for the season with a broken foot, and the last thing the No. 1-ranked Panthers needed was a season-ending injury to their powerful big man with March Madness looming.

As it turned out, Blair returned to the game and finished with nine points and 10 rebounds and Sam Young poured in a game-high 29 points and 10 boards as Pitt handled Seton Hall, 89-78, on Senior Night at The Prudential Center.

"He's fine," Fields said of Blair. "He thought he hyper-extended [his knee] but he's fine. He's walking around fine and he's good."

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said he would have an update on Blair's status Sunday.

Without Blair at his best, Young played brilliantly, making 10-of-15 from the field and 9-of-10 from the line for Pitt (26-3, 13-3 Big East), which was coming off Tuesday's upset loss at Providence. Seton Hall (15-13, 6-10) had no answer for him. "Sam Young was just unbelievable," Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez said. "We have no answer for him. He was just spectacular, 29 and 10."

Jermaine Dixon added 14 points and Fields tallied 10 points and 10 assists for Pitt, which dominated on the glass, 44-21.

Pitt will lose its No. 1 ranking come Monday as a result of the Providence loss but can still win at least a share of the conference title.

Seton Hall lost for the fourth time in five games, with three losses coming against Top 10 teams.

"The better team won," Gonzalez said. "Just wore us down and won by the end of the game."

Seton Hall received three technicals in the game, one apiece for Gonzalez, assistant coach Scott Adubato and Hazell. Gonzalez now has five on the season. The last technical -- called on Hazell -- drew a chorus of boos from the crowd.

Hazell paced the Pirates with 25 points on 9-of-21 shooting, including 5-of-15 from beyond the arc.

"He's going to get his shots up, there's no doubt about that," Dixon said of Hazell. "We've got to make him earn them."

Robert Mitchell and Eugene Harvey scored 17 points apiece and John Garcia added 10. Paul Gause, Seton Hall's lone senior and the No. 2 all-time steals leader in school history, tallied five points and three rebounds in his final home game.

Gause was given a standing ovation when he was removed with 55 seconds left.

Seton Hall trailed 39-37 on a basket by Gause but Pitt rattled off an 11-2 run to push it back to 50-39.

Seton Hall led by as many as five in the first half, but Pitt withstood the punch and closed half on a 12-2 run to take a 36-31 lead at the break.

The Pirates are hoping for an NIT bid but will probably have to win a couple of games in the Big East tournament to make that happen. Seton Hall closes out the regular season with two tough games at Louisville and at Cincinnati.

"This is a team that can win a game," Gonzalez said. "We're dangerous. We play better against better teams sometimes. We certainly are a dangerous opponent if we make shots.

"I still think we belong in some type of conversation down the road."

NOTES: Gonzalez said he had received numerous letters from alums praising him on this year's team. "I've got about 150 letters from alums who said this will go down as one of their favorite teams they've ever seen," he said. "This team was resilient, played their tails off [and] never went away."... New Jersey State Sen. Richard Codey sat with Rutgers guards Mike Rosario and Corey Chandler. Rutgers hosts Providence on Sunday... Former Seton Hall Prep guard Ashton Gibbs of Pitt used about 120 tickets for friends and family... Pitt has won 12 of its last 13 games in the New York/New Jersey.

Adam Zagoria is a regular contributor to SNY.tv. Read his blog at ZagsBlog.com
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