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Pittsburgh Stuns No. 4 Kentucky


Since he's been at Pittsburgh, Vonteego Cummings has always had to listen to the what-ifs because of a team injury list that seemed to never end.

From knee injuries to broken fingers to an infected bite wound at the teeth of a teammate, there were always reasons why the Panthers faltered.

So far this season, the injuries have stayed away and the big wins have come early.

On Friday, Cummings, a senior guard, had 20 points and seven assists as the Panthers shocked No. 4 Kentucky 68-54 in the semifinals of the Puerto Rico Shootout, ending the defending national champions' 17-game winning streak.

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The Panthers (6-0) will play No. 5 Maryland in Saturday night's championship game.

"Beating the defending national champions says a lot about your team," Cummings said.

The win was the second in two days over a ranked team for the Panthers, who beat No. 13 Xavier 94-76 in the opening round.

Pittsburgh coach Ralph Willard was a former assistant at Kentucky under Rick Pitino.

"Obviously beating two ranked teams in two days means a lot to your program but it means more to me for these kids who have been through so much," he said.

The game was another struggle from the outside for Kentucky (4-1). The Wildcats followed a 1-for-12 effort from 3-point range in their opening win over Colorado with a 2-for-22 performance from beyond the arc against Pittsburgh.

"We missed about 40 open shots," Kentucky forward Scott Padgett said. "We scored at will inside but didn't get anything outside."

Cummings said that was Pitt's game plan.

"We wanted them to take 3s," he said. "We had scouting reports that said they weren't shooting that well."

Padgett agreed.

"The way we were shooting today I would have wanted us to shoot, too," he said.

Pittsburgh took the lead for good with 945 to play on a basket by Jeremy Holmes.

Holmes' field goal started a 9-2 run that made it 55-48 with 7:36 left. A basket by Padgett got the Wildcats within five, but Cummings beat Kentucky down court for a layup, then tipped in his own miss to cap a 6-0 run that made it 61-50 with 3:49 left.

With 600 Kentucky fans in the 2,500-seat Guerra Sports Complex at American University of Puerto Rico, the comeback they thought would happen didn't.

"They had their run and then we couldn't come up with one of our own," Padgett said.

Kentucky managed only four points over the final 3½ minutes as Pittsburgh's defense contested every 3-point attempt and stayed tough inside against the bigger and deeper Wildcats.

"They were too athletic and we weren't ready for this game," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "We had a couple of chances if we just could have hit a shot or made a play we could have taken control of the tempo but we just couldn't do it."

The Panthers were 9-FOR-17 on 3s, with freshman Fred Primus going 3-for-5 for his nine points.

Isaac Hawkins added 10 points and 10 rebounds for Pittsburgh.

Michael Bradley had 16 points for Kentucky, which last lost Feb. 14 to Mississippi, while Heshimu Evans had 13 and Wayne Turner 11.

"We've had early losses the last three years," Padgett said. "Just like we did then, we have to learn from them."

Pittsburgh led 31-25 at halftime and Kentucky never took the lead, tying the score twice, the last time at 46-46 before Pitt went on the decisive run that was capped on another layup by Cummings after he beat Kentucky down the court.

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