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Pitt freshman center Adams toughens up, posts double-double in NCAA loss

| Thursday, March 21, 2013, 11:32 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — There wasn't much of anything for Pitt to savor from its latest NCAA Tournament flop, but Steven Adams might have at least offered a glimpse of hope for next season.

The Panthers' 7-foot freshman finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks, a steal and maybe some freshly discovered assertiveness in the otherwise dreary 73-55 loss to Wichita State on Thursday at EnergySolutions Arena.

“Steve kept battling and kept going and was active around the glass,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “We tried to get the ball inside to him more, but it seemed like he got touches, threw it back out, and we didn't make good plays out of that. But he's going to be a great player, there is no question.”

Adams, perhaps the most prized recruit of Dixon's tenure, averaged 7.0 points and 6.2 rebounds in his first year, one that saw as much promise as it did pensiveness. The big man would go long stretches without calling for passes, or he'd have the ball easily swatted away once it arrived.

Not in this game. Best example of Adams putting his big frame to work came midway through the second half when he burrowed his right shoulder forcefully into Wichita State's Cleanthony Early then powered around him for a layup.

Adams had a significant height advantage over Wichita State, which didn't have a regular player taller than 6-9, but the difference in demeanor still stood out.

Asked how he felt he developed over the season, Adams replied: “Tremendously. I'm comfortable with the team and stuff.”

It's the kind of game that will get a big man noticed by NBA teams, but Adams emphatically reiterated his commitment to return to Pitt for his sophomore year.

“I'm coming back,” he told reporters. “I don't know why you guys keep asking that question, man. I'm coming back.”

Adams illustrated his passion for the team powerfully by tearing up as he answered a few questions, notably about the graduation loss of fellow center Dante Taylor.

“He's like a big brother,” Adams said.

Dejan Kovacevic is a sports columnist for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dkovacevic@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Dejan_Kovacevic.

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