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Pitt point guard is back to his old ways

| Wednesday, March 25, 2009

You can't spell "advance" without Levance.

Top-seed Pitt survived the opening two rounds while All-Americans DeJuan Blair and Sam Young took turns carrying the Panthers.

But it was senior point guard Levance Fields whose performance could mean the most as the Pitt men's basketball program tries to reach uncharted territory.

"He's going to make the play," Young said. "If he doesn't make the pass, he's going to make the shot."

Added Xavier coach Sean Miller, "Levance Fields is as productive of a guard that plays college basketball."

After a rough two games to start the postseason, Fields looked again like one of the top point guards in the NCAA Tournament in Pitt's victory over Oklahoma State in the East Regional second-round game in Dayton.

Fields will lead Pitt (30-4) against No. 4 seed Xavier (27-7) at 7:27 p.m. Thursday at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston in the East Regional semifinals.

Along the way, Fields will try to accomplish what so many other standout Pitt point guards have failed to achieve, namely, leading the Panthers past the Sweet 16.

Two of those former guards who came up short, Miller and Brandin Knight, will be on the sideline as Pitt and Atlantic 10 regular-season champion Xavier meet for the right to play No. 2 Duke or No. 3 Villanova on Saturday in the Elite Eight.

Fields shot 6 for 20 from the field and averaged four turnovers in Pitt's first two postseason games. The slump came after a dazzling run in which he recorded double-doubles in victories over Seton Hall, Marquette and then No. 1-Connecticut.

But Fields, who suffered a nagging groin injury against Marquette March 4 and missed nearly two weeks of practice, made more big plays in the final 21 minutes of the Oklahoma State game than against West Virginia and East Tennessee State combined.

"I feel like I played good. I feel I can play better," Fields said. "I made some shots. When you make shots, you are always going to play better."

Fields, who was 5 of 11 from the field, had missed 12 3-pointers in a row before he made one in the final seconds of the first half for a 49-all tie. The bucket came moments after Fields alertly grabbed his rebound on a missed one-and-one as players on both teams didn't move into the lane, believing it was a two-shot foul.

"That was big," coach Jamie Dixon said.

Fields finished with 13 points, nine assists — breaking Knight's single-season assist record — and only two turnovers in 36 minutes.

He also ended a confounding streak without a free-throw attempt when he was fouled in the final two minutes. It was the first time he had been to the line since the Marquette game, a span of 116 minutes on the floor.

In a Sweet 16 loaded with quality point guards, from Ty Lawson and Tyreke Evans to Kalin Lucas and Jonny Flynn, Miller said Fields belongs with any of them.

"I don't know where he goes from here," Miller said. "Is he big enough• Is he fast enough• Are there players more talented• How does his game translate from college to the NBA• I can't answer that. What I can answer is there is no point guard that plays college basketball who does it any better than him."

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