Blair has 32 points, 14 boards as No. 5 Pitt routs DePaul

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- DeJuan Blair couldn't remember a stretch like this, and there probably is a good reason why: He'd be hard-pressed to find one.

Blair scored a career-high 32 points while grabbing 14 rebounds, Levance Fields added a personal-best 16 assists and Pittsburgh (No. 5 ESPN/USA Today, No. 6 AP) pulled away for a 92-69 victory over DePaul on Saturday.

The Panthers (21-2, 8-2 Big East) ended the first half on a 13-0 run to grab a 42-33 lead after a slow start, then pulled away early in the second to send DePaul (8-16, 0-11) to its 11th straight loss -- the longest slide since a 13-game skid at the end of the 1996-97 season.

Blair was sharp again, hitting 14 of 23 shots while turning in his 15th double-double and helping Pitt dominate on the glass, 42-25. The Panthers grabbed 17 offensive rebounds while converting 38-of-68 shots, a statistic that DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright called "amazing."

Which would be a good way to describe Blair's performance of late. He's averaging 24.3 points and 14.6 rebounds while shooting 62 percent over the last three games, while the Panthers have scored more than 90 each time.

"This is the best I've been playing," he said. "I'm going to try to keep it going."

The 6-foot-7, 265-pound center simply outmuscled -- and outreached -- DePaul while grabbing nine offensive rebounds. On at least two occasions, he put the ball in after grabbing his third rebound.

"I don't know how I did it when I got three in a row," Blair said. "I did that in high school, but I didn't think I could get it in college."

Wainwright said Blair reminded him of a handball player, the way he kept volleying the ball back after the carom. He also had flashbacks to watching Moses Malone and Charles Barkley.

"He's not as athletic as Charles Barkley, but he's certainly bigger," Wainwright said. "Their hips are right up to here on you and they just don't give up space. He's the kind of guy that when they have festival seating at a stadium ... you want to be standing next to Blair. You're going to get a good seat. He's going to be at the front."

His teammates kept the pace.

Fields had 13 points and set a career-high for assists after matching it with 13 in the previous game against Robert Morris. Brad Wanamaker also had 13 points, hitting five of six shots.

The lone winless team in Big East play, the Blue Demons are one loss away from matching their worst league start in 13 years. They looked sharp early before the Panthers turned it around for their fifth win in six games.

Pittsburgh trailed 33-29 when Sam Young hit the first of two free throws with 2:20 left in the first half and Blair put back the miss. Jermaine Dixon then buried a 3-pointer from the corner to give Pitt a 35-33 lead, and hit another one from the top of the key at the end of the half to make it a nine-point game.

DePaul never threatened after that.

The Blue Demons got 18 points each from Mac Koshwal and Dar Tucker, who missed their previous game with a sprained left ankle. But their leading scorer was just 6-of-19 shooting in this one, and they were missing starting guard Jabari Currie, who sat with a sore left knee.

Now, DePaul could fall to 0-12 in league play for the first time since the 1995-96 team dropped its first 12 Conference USA games.

Outscored by an average of 18.7 points the previous three games, the Blue Demons hung most of the first half with a team that was ranked among the top five for most of the year and spent time at the top of the poll.

Koshwal provided some sparks in the early going, passing off to Obi Kene for a dunk after a nice spin move and then burying a baseline jumper that made it 16-11 nine minutes into the game. Later, he drove the lane for a scoop layup that Will Walker followed with a steal and layup that made it 22-16, drawing a roar from the crowd.

But the good vibe didn't last. Pittsburgh had an answer -- an emphatic one.

"It's tough for me because I wish this place the best," coach Jamie Dixon said. "I wish DePaul the best. This is a special place, great leadership. I really do hope they do well."