Bears Can't Get Past Pittsburgh

March 17, 2002

AP Sports Writer

PITTSBURGH - There's no 'D' in Pittsburgh, but try telling that toCalifornia's can't-score Golden Bears.

Pitt held California without a point for 9 1/2 minutes during a decisive 16-0run, and the defense-driven Panthers moved into the South Regional semifinalswith a 63-50 victory Sunday.

Julius Page scored seven of his 17 points during that spurt, which beganwith Cal leading 32-28 with 16:40 remaining and ended with Pitt up 44-32 with7:08 left. The Golden Bears went more than 11 minutes without scoring a basket,and 15-plus minutes with only one basket.

Pitt third-team All-American Brandin Knight was an all-over-the-floor forcewith 11 points and seven assists, but he wasn't really a factor offensively -not that he needed to be with Pitt's defense so dominating, so controlling.

The Steelers had the Steel Curtain during the 1970s, and now Pitt has theSteal Curtain - a suffocating, Knight-led defense that is the school's best in50 years, and one that held Cal to only six baskets in the final 16:40 of play.

By winning twice within a mile of its campus, third-seeded Pitt (29-5)advances to the regional semifinals for only the second time in school history,and the first time since losing to David Thompson's sky-walking North CarolinaState Wolfpack in the 1974 regional finals. Until now, that was the only Pittteam to win two games in an NCAA tournament.

Now the Panthers will play 10th-seeded Kent State on Thursday in Lexington,Ky.

Good college basketball teams aren't supposed to win when shooting 43percent or making only 12-of-26 free throws or getting so little offense fromtheir star, as Pitt did.

Of course, skilled teams such as sixth-seeded Cal (23-9) - which beat UCLAtwice - are supposed to make more than three of their first 20 shots in a half.The Bears, growing increasingly frustrated the longer they failed to score,were only 9-of-31 (29 percent) in the second half and 18-of-58 (31 percent)overall.

Only Shantay Legans (13 points) and Joe Shipp (11 points) scored in doublefigures for the Bears, who were only 4-of-24 from 3-point range.

Chevy Troutman, a freshman making only his second career start, added 11points for Pitt, and Ontario Lett outmuscled Cal's bigger front line for 10points in Pitt's biggest victory in more than a quarter-century. The Pantherswon for the 11th time in 12 games and 14th time in 16 games.

Pitt, playing Cal for the first time in 51 years, made a surprise adjustmentto the Bears' size advantage by benching 6-foot-10 center Toree Morris andopening with a lineup in which no starter was taller than 6-8.

That didn't keep Cal from opening an 8-5 lead, but Pitt answered with a 7-0run to go up 12-8.

In a game in which two of the nation's top defenses were as dominant as theoffenses in UCLA's 105-101 upset of Cincinnati on the same floor earlierSunday, neither team led by more than four points in the first half. Pitt led26-25 at the break.

It clearly was a pro-Pitt crowd in a sold-out Mellon Arena - any Panthers'run brought resounding waves of noise, but it wasn't nearly as loud as if thegame had been played on their home court a mile away.

Cal coach Ben Braun tried to downplay Pitt's hometown advantage, no doubttrying to convince the Bears that the atmosphere was less hostile than some ofthe Pac-10 courts where they play.

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