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Updated: Thursday, December 19, 2002 12:19 AM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(3) Pittsburgh 69, Ohio St 49
OHIO ST. BUCKEYES
Ohio St. Buckeyes
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PITTSBURGH PANTHERS
Pittsburgh Panthers
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PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- Facing a tougher opponent made no difference for Pittsburgh.

Julius Page scored 18 points and Brandin Knight added a season-high 17 as the third-ranked Panthers won their seventh straight to open the season, 69-49 over Ohio State.

Pittsburgh (7-0) was not threatened in its first six games, winning each contest by at least 15 points. However, those games were against teams that entered the day with a 7-33 record, including matchups with dismal Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Southeastern Louisiana.

Ohio State (3-3) stayed close for 10 minutes and Sean Connolly's 3-pointer cut the deficit to 17-15. Donatas Zavackas answered with a 3-pointer, Toree Morris made a pair at the line and Page added a 3-pointer for a 10-point lead.

"It was a really good win for us against a really good team," Pittsburgh coach Ben Howland said. "They are a good team and I fully expect to see them in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth year in a row."

The Panthers scored the final seven points of the half and opened a 35-21 lead on Chevon Troutman's basket off a feed from Ontario Lett. Jaron Brown's dunk on the fast break made it 42-24 early in the second half and the lead never dipped below 13 points.

Ohio State's Brent Darby, who had been averaging 21.0 points per game, had a terrible night with just three points on 1-of-9 shooting. The Buckeyes shot 32 percent (16-of-50) and managed just eight baskets in each half.

Page did the bulk of the defensive work on Darby and also had the most efficient offensive night of all players. He made 6-of-9 shots, including three 3-pointers, and had a pair of big early blocks on Darby.

"It was one of my better defensive games, but I didn't do it alone," Page said. "I knew the blocked shots early in the game weren't going to get Darby down. You can't get a player that scores more than 20 points in a game down about a few blocks."

"We didn't get a lot of calls, which is no excuse," Darby said. "They were pushing us off the block a lot. When you get pushed from the back, it's hard for big men to get in the block."

Knight averaged just 10.5 points in his first three games but called his own number more often in this one. The preseason Big East Conference Player of the Year made 5-of-11 shots and handed out six assists, one shy of his average.

"We had some opportunities to capitalize on and we did," Knight said. "We came out and played with a lot of intensity that followed through the whole game."

Pitt used its muscle to get inside for easy baskets. The Panthers shot 54 percent (22-of-41) and held a 24-16 edge in points in the paint. Zavackas was the third Pitt player in double figures with 10 points.

"The refs just let us play, and that is what we like," Page said. "Ohio State pushed us around as much as we pushed them. They can't push us and then ask for a call on the other end."

The Panthers' inside play resulted in plenty of trips to the line, but Pitt made just 20-of-33 free throws. Troutman was the worst offender, missing 6-of-7 attempts. Knight, who was 3-of-10 this season, made 6-of-8 shots.

Connolly led Ohio State with 15 points but was the only player in double figures for the Buckeyes. Starting forward Zach Williams fouled out with eight points on 2-of-9 shooting and committed six of his team's 19 turnovers.

"I am embarrassed by the way we played tonight and I hope the team is embarrassed, too," Buckeyes coach Jim O'Brien said. "I am not happy with the way we played today. We are better than the way we played."

O'Brien benched Darby for the final eight minutes, saying the game was out of reach.

Pitt improved to 39-1 under Howland when keeping an opponent under 60 points.


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