No. 12 Pittsburgh 73, DePaul 65

Pittsburgh's Ronald Ramon, left, dives for a loose basketball with DePaul's Jabari Currie in the first half in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2006.

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic
Published: Friday, January 13, 2006 at 1:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 13, 2006 at 1:19 p.m.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - DePaul learned on its first trip to Pittsburgh for a Big East game that the Steelers aren't the only team in town capable of playing a physical game in January.

Aaron Gray scored 20 points and Carl Krauser had 19 for No. 12 Pittsburgh, which shook off a 13-point deficit to remain one of three unbeatens in Division I with a 73-65 victory Thursday night.

"I expected this," said Krauser, a senior guard who announced last spring he was turning pro but changed his mind. "This is what I came back for. I told these guys that we wanted to be unbeaten now, and then go one game at a time in the Big East."

Pitt, unranked as late as two weeks ago, is 13-0 for only the fourth time in its 100-year basketball history to join No. 1 Duke (15-0) and No. 2 Florida (15-0) as the only major unbeatens.

First-year DePaul coach Jerry Wainright praised Krauser profusely when his Richmond team played in Pittsburgh several years ago, so Krauser's strong play _ he had six assists and five rebounds _ didn't surprise him.

What did catch Wainwright unprepared was how rough-and-tumble Pitt was for a team that starts only one senior, and ended the game with only one player having more than two fouls.

"Maybe I should give Coach Cowher and the Steelers a call and see if we can play them a scrimmage while we're here," Wainwright said, in a thinly veiled criticism of the officiating. "I wonder if there would be as much hitting in that game."

Pitt went 20-of-28 at the free throw line to DePaul's 5-of-8, and Wainwright appeared to question why there was such a big disparity.

"We're not good enough to be up by 13 on anybody," he said. "After that, you have to earn some baskets and get to the free throw line and we didn't do that."

Freshman guard Levance Fields, getting more playing time as Pitt gets into its Big East schedule, scored six points during a pivotal 13-3 run midway through the second half that opened a 54-44 lead.

Fields began the run with two free throws to make it 43-41 and later hit a driving layup and a runner from the lane to give Pitt (13-0, 2-0) its first double-digit lead. Fields added 10 points in Pitt's first game in eight days, or since his shaky 5-of-10 free throw shooting down the stretch repeatedly kept Pitt from closing out a 100-97, double-overtime win over Notre Dame on Jan. 4 after Krauser fouled out.

Pitt was much better at the line against DePaul after going 44-of-70 in its previous two games.

Wilson Chandler had 15 points and seven rebounds for DePaul (8-6, 1-2) before fouling out in the final minute. The Blue Demons got it to 69-65 on Sammy Mejia's two free throws with 58 seconds left before failing to score again. Mejia had 15 points and Draelon Burns added 13.

Unlike the Notre Dame game, when Pitt got off to big leads and then held off repeated rallies, it was DePaul that surged at the start by opening a 21-8 lead over the rusty Panthers with 7 1/2 minutes gone.

The Blue Demons were helped by three early 3-pointers against the Big East's worst 3-point defense, but Krauser and Gray teamed to lead a 17-4 run that tied it at 25.

"We came out a little anxious and made some bad plays and we were overdefending them," Gray said. "Once we calmed down, that allowed us to get back in it and that got our confidence back and we started rolling."

This is the second time in three seasons the Panthers are 13-0 under coach Jamie Dixon _ they started 18-0 during his first season in 2003-04 _ but this strong start was unexpected given Pitt's relative youth.

Field and another freshman, 6-foot-6 Sam Young (eight points, four rebounds), have developed very quickly. And Gray is playing more consistently than last year's starting center, Chris Taft, who went to the NBA after his sophomore season.

The Panthers have benefited from a favorable schedule in which they have left Pittsburgh only once, for a sloppily played victory at South Carolina last month. The Panthers' next three are on the road in a span of six days starting Sunday at Louisville, followed by Rutgers and St. John's.

Pitt and DePaul played for only the second time and the first in 69 years.

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