Blair says he won't get in foul trouble
BOSTON -- Pitt's DeJuan Blair admits he made a couple of "bone-headed" fouls in the Panthers' 67-57 loss at Villanova two months ago, and he learned from it.
"I'm more disciplined now," he said. "I go into the game acting like I've got two fouls."
Against Villanova, he didn't have to act.
Blair picked up his second foul away from the basket with 8:35 to play in the first half. His fourth foul, with eight minutes to play in a deadlocked game, also came trying for a steal near the foul line.
He finished with seven points, matching his second-lowest total of the season, and with eight rebounds. Pitt lost after leading, 31-26, at halftime.
"They were not smart plays on his part," Villanova coach Jay Wright said of Blair. "He has learned from that. He was going for steals and being overly aggressive when he didn't have to.
"He's gotten much better at that. He's learned a lot. We're going to have to deal with him for 40 minutes, I think, (tonight)."
If you notice Blair playing without his signature dual-bicep arm bands tonight, it's not his own doing.
Blair was told by NCAA officials at halftime Thursday that he couldn't wear them unless they were for medicinal purposes. He took them off for the second half and grabbed 13 of his game-high 17 rebounds.
"I was mad," he said. "They made me take them off. I said 'I've been doing this (all season).' "
All-Big East affair
The Pitt-Villanova game will mark only the third time in the past 17 years that two teams from the same conference are playing in a regional final.
The others were Oklahoma-Missouri in 2002 and Wisconsin-Purdue in 2000.
The most recent time two Big East teams played for a Final Four spot was 1987, when Rick Pitino-coached Providence beat Georgetown.
I'll take that
Pitt junior Jermaine Dixon had a season-high six steals against Villanova in their first meeting.
"I noticed that when their big men passed the ball, they just swing the ball without looking," he said. "I knew I could get into passing lanes and get some steals. Hopefully, it will be the same way this game."
There was no harm done because of Levance Fields' quick thinking, but Dixon was asked to explain his blown breakaway in the second half of the Xavier game.
"I knew it was coming," he said, laughing. "It's cool. When I started to go up, my right knee gave out on me. I lost all control. I tried to make the layup still, but I couldn't.
"Luckily, Levance was following me."
Dixon said he thanked Fields for the play, but his teammates didn't let him off that easy.
"They clowned me the whole time."
Blair drew big laughs at Friday's media session when he was asked to describe some of the attributes of a player from the Pittsburgh region, compared with Philadelphia-based Villanova players.
"I'm the only basketball player that came out of Pittsburgh," he said.Additional Information:
One of the overlooked big men in the Big East this season, Cunningham continued to fuel the Wildcats' with a 14-point, 11-rebound performance in Villanova's East Regional semifinal victory over Duke on Thursday night.
The 6-foo-8, 230 -pound senior forward is averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game heading into Saturday's East Regional final against Pitt. He grabbed nine rebounds, had a block and a steal while helping limit the Blue Devils to just 26.7 shooting (16 for 60) from the floor in the loss.
'When coach handed us the brackets, he only gave us the four teams in our area. We looked up and knew Pittsburgh was in that area,' Dante Cunningham said. 'That's something we kind of looked forward to.'
Offensively, he hit 5 of 13 shots and made four free throws in the Wildcats' first win over Duke in 50 years.