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Fields' baskets send Pitt past Xavier 60-55

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HOWARD ULMAN | March 26, 2009 11:10 PM EST | AP

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BOSTON — Levance Fields pointed Pittsburgh in the right direction just in time.

Fields made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 50.9 seconds left, then scored off his steal as the top-seeded Panthers advanced to the regional finals for the first time in 35 years with a 60-55 win over Xavier on Thursday night.

The last time Pitt was in a regional final was in 1974 when it lost to eventual national champion North Carolina State and star David Thompson 100-72.

Pitt (31-4) trailed 54-52 before its star point guard connected. He then poked the ball away from B.J. Raymond and went in for a layup with 23.9 seconds to go.

Sam Young led Pitt with 19 points, Fields had 14, and DeJuan Blair had 10 points and 17 rebounds in the East semifinal victory. The Panthers overcame an eight-point halftime deficit.

Pitt plays Saturday against the winner of Thursday night's second semifinal between Duke and Villanova for a berth in the Final Four.

Fourth-seeded Xavier (27-8) was led by Raymond with 15 points and Derrick Brown with 14.

Panthers coach Jamie Dixon made it to the round of eight for the first time in his six years on the bench after losing in his other two trips to the round of 16. Xavier fell short in its bid for a third berth in the regional finals in six years.

Trailing 37-29 at halftime, Pitt scored the first nine points of the second half _ and Xavier missed its first 10 shots _ as the Panthers took a 38-37 lead with 14:33 left.

But the Musketeers recovered and went ahead 54-52 with 1:50 remaining when Dante Jackson cut to the basket for a layup.

Fields then had the ball past midcourt before it went into the backcourt off a defender. Fields retrieved it, dribbled into his own end and fired up the go-ahead shot.

He was in the right place again when Raymond lost control of his dribble. Fields got the ball, pushed it forward and dribbled ahead of the field to put the Panthers up by three.

Xavier's Terrell Holloway made a free throw with 16 seconds left, but Young hit two just three seconds later. After a missed 3-pointer by Brown, Brad Wannamaker made one more free throw for Pitt with 2.6 seconds left.

The Musketeers went just 7-for-29 from the field in the second half when they were outscored 31-18.

But they were solid late in the first half. With the score tied at 27, Xavier outscored Pitt 10-2 in the last three minutes of the half to take a 37-29 lead. Brown started the surge with a 3-pointer and sank another one that made it 35-29.

Blair struggled offensively inside and finished with just two points and four rebounds in the first half. He had eight points and 13 rebounds after that.