It was the Mountaineers’ first win at the Petersen Events Center since Feb. 23, 2005. It was also likely the last Backyard Brawl, as the Mountaineers move to the Big 12 Conference in July.
WVU helped its NCAA tournament resume with just its third road win of the season. The Mountaineers (17-10, 7-7) also jump back to .500 in Big East Conference play. Pitt’s loss likely knocks it out of any NCAA tournament discussion.
“I told them, ‘Have you ever been in a corner with people chasing after you? We have to fight our way out of it,’” said WVU head coach Bob Huggins. “We needed it. We need some more, and that’s what I told them. This isn’t a celebration. We had to do this. We haven’t fought our way out yet.”
The Mountaineers forced Pitt into 17 turnovers. The Panthers made just 17 baskets in the game and at one point with eight minutes left in the game had more turnovers than baskets made.
WVU senior forward Kevin Jones recorded his 18th double-double of the season. He had a team-high 16 points and 13 rebounds. Three other players – senior guard Truck Bryant, junior forward Deniz Kilicli and freshman point guard Gary Browne - scored in double figures.
The Mountaineers shot 44.2 percent for the game and scored 23 points of turnovers and 30 points in the paint.
Player of the Game
In the second half, WVU and Pitt went back-and-forth for the first five minutes of the half before the Mountaineers started to hit some shots as the Panthers continued to stay cold.
With WVU up just two at 33-31, the Mountaineers went on an 11-5 run started by five straight points from Hinds and then two points from Browne, Jones and Kilicli to take their largest lead of the game at 44-36 with under nine minutes to play.
Then, Kilicli scored on a dunk and added a free throw to take a 47-36 lead. That came on a 9-0 run by WVU.
That run would jump to 12-0 on a Bryant layup and one to go up 53-36 before the Panthers hit a three to cut the lead and end a more than five-minute drought.
The Mountaineers cruised to the end from that point.
“Our shot selection was better in the second half than in the first half … We guarded,” Huggins said. “I wore them out at halftime. Sometimes we just settle when we lose. You’ve got to take it heart. You get beat, and you have to take it heart.”
WVU started off hot, as Kilicli scored seven of the Mountaineers’ first nine points to give WVU a 9-4 advantage.
Bryant did not start the game, but did sub into the game with 14:24 to play in the first half. Browne started in Bryant’s place. Freshman forward Keaton Miles was also back in the starting lineup.
Bryant drained his first shot – a three – to give the Mountaineers a 14-10 lead with more than 11 minutes to play in the half.
The teams would go back and forth throughout the first hald. Pitt would take a 21-20 lead on a layup from forward Talib Zanna. Free throws from guard Ashton Gibbs gave the Panthers a 6-0 run and a 23-20 lead before the Mountaineers would finish the half on a 6-2 run to take a 26-25 lead at the half.
The two teams combined for 17 turnovers in the first half – a half that was almost stunningly similar on both sides.
Pitt was led by guard Tray Woodall who had 12 points. Pitt shot just 37 percent.