Monday, March 24, 2003

Midwest: Pitt's defense sends Indiana home

Coverdale shut down, scores just six points

The Associated Press

BOSTON - Pittsburgh has a Steel Curtain defense again, thanks to coach Ben Howland. His Panthers wore down Indiana in a 74-52 victory Sunday to reach the round of 16 for the second consecutive year.

Pitt didn't have much basketball tradition before Howland, so he had to find his inspiration elsewhere in the city's sporting lore.

"Pittsburgh Steelers basketball," Howland called it when he became the school's most successful NCAA Tournament coach with four wins.

"We're not tall. We're burly. We want kids that are tough. That's what wins."

Jaron Brown scored 20 points, and Brandin Knight added 17 points and seven assists for second-seeded Pittsburgh, which will play No. 3 seed Marquette in the Midwest Regional semifinals Thursday in Minneapolis.

Knight also had five steals, and Chevon Troutman grabbed nine rebounds to go with his 10 points as the Panthers (28-4) did most of their damage on defense.

Drawing on the Steel Curtain defense that brought the city four Super Bowl titles in the 1970s, Howland used a bulky frontcourt rotation of Ontario Lett, Donatas Zavackas and Troutman.

Listed at an average of 6-foot-7 and 246 pounds they pushed around Indiana's taller but spindly George Leach (6-11, 240) and Jeff Newton (6-9, 225).

Indiana (21-13) trailed by one before going scoreless for the last 6:33 of the first half, committing five turnovers during that the span while missing five shots - mostly long, contested 3-point attempts. At the same time, Brown had a blocked shot and a 3-pointer, and Knight added two steals and a pair of 3s to give Pitt a 31-21 halftime lead.

Indiana, a seventh seed, had a similar stumble at a similar time of its opening-round game against Alabama before overcoming an 11-point halftime deficit to beat the Crimson Tide 67-62.

This time, the deficit was more than a temporary setback for the Hoosiers (21-13), who lost in the championship game to Maryland last year.

"It's hard to think back right now," senior Tom Coverdale said when asked to assess his career. "I'm just thinking about what we could have done."

Bracey Wright had nine of his 11 points in the second half against Pitt - not enough. Coverdale, who led Indiana with 23 in the first round, had just six points on seven shots against Julius Page's defense.

"He's probably the best defender I've faced in my whole career," Coverdale said.

It was the 11th consecutive victory for Pitt and the sixth time in seven games that the Big East champions held an opponent under 60 points. The only exception was an 87-61 first-round victory over Wagner.

"Not one guy over there cares who scores. That's the point we've got to get back to as a team," said Indiana coach Mike Davis.

INDIANA (21-13)-Wright 4-11 2-3 11, Newton 4-9 5-5 14, Leach 7-11 1-2 15, Coverdale 2-7 0-0 6, Strickland 1-3 0-0 3, Moye 0-0 0-0 0, Hornsby 1-2 0-0 3, Perry 0-1 0-0 0, Roberts 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-44 8-10 52.

PITTSBURGH (28-4)-Brown 8-9 3-4 20, Zavackas 1-5 0-0 2, Lett 3-7 3-7 9, Page 5-9 2-2 13, Knight 4-6 7-10 17, Troutman 3-7 4-4 10, Krauser 1-3 1-1 3, Demetris 0-0 0-0 0, McCarroll 0-1 0-0 0, Morris 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-47 20-28 74.

Halftime-Pittsburgh 31, Indiana 21. 3-Point Goals-Indiana 6-17 (Coverdale 2-5, Hornsby 1-2, Newton 1-2, Strickland 1-3, Wright 1-4, Perry 0-1), Pittsburgh 4-9 (Knight 2-4, Brown 1-1, Page 1-2, Zavackas 0-2). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-Indiana 21 (Wright 8), Pittsburgh 36 (Troutman 9). Assists-Indiana 13 (Coverdale 6), Pittsburgh 16 (Knight 7). Total fouls-Indiana 18, Pittsburgh 14. A-18,389.

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