Tuesday, February 27, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: West Virginia @ Pittsburgh

February 27, 2007

The Backyard Brawl between Pittsburgh and West Virginia meets for Act II on the hardwood tonight when the Mountaineers travel north to take on the Panthers. Pittsburgh won their earlier meeting this season at Morgantown, 60-47, when Sam Young scored a career-high 21 pts off the bench. Tonight, the Pittsburgh fans will converge on the Peterson Events Center one last time to send-off seniors Aaron Gray, Antonio Graves, Levon Kendall and Doyle Hudson. West Virginia will hope to dampen the party by making it rain threes.

Here are the pregame stories and previews found on the internet this morning:

Anatomy of Gray's Climb from Obscurity (Charleston Gazette)
Well-Rested Mountaineers Seek Revenge at Pittsburgh (Register-Herald)
A Tough Task for Pete's Sake (Charleston Gazette)
Pitt Keeping Title Hopes Alive (Tribune-Democrat)
Panthers Learn Lesson (Beaver County Times)
Match-up: West Virginia @ Pitt (Tribune-Review)
Pitt Seniors Bid Farewell to Peterson Events Center (Tribune-Review)
Panthers Try to Solve Shooting, Defensive Problems (Post-Gazette).

Pittsburgh, a 9-pt favorite tonight, saw their chances to share the Big East Regular Season title greatly enhanced on Monday night with Syracuse knocking off Georgetown. However, they need to take care of business against their rivals from West Virginia tonight in what will be an emotionally charged Peterson Events Center. When West Virginia comes to town, the Pittsburgh fans will be ready, and tonight, they will be saying farewell to seniors Aaron Gray, Antonio Graves, Levon Kendall and Doyle Hudson, a senior class with 100 wins in their four years.

West Virginia has seen their hopes for a return to the NCAA Tournament put in limbo with their inability to win away from home and lack of quality wins. They only have one win against a Big East team (DePaul) with a current winning record in the conference. Their lone marquee out of conference win was impressive, beating UCLA at home earlier this month, but the Bruins were without their starting point guard. So, after a week off after a loss to Providence, where the Mountaineers shot 9-41 on three-pointers in a 64-61 loss, the Mountaineers will be a desperate bunch playing for their March lives when they come to Pittsburgh tonight.

The Panthers have shown some vulnerability of late, losing two of their last four, including a home loss to Louisville. The Panthers have also not won by more than six points since their win at West Virginia 20 days ago. Pittsburgh's offense has been inconsistent, at best, of late as their one-time league leading 3-pt shooting percentage in league play has dropped to 38%, which still leads the league, yet is down from the 43% that it was a few weeks ago. The Panthers are also slowed by the severly sprained ankle of their big man, Aaron Gray. The 7-footer gutted through 21 minutes of play in their 61-53 loss at Georgetown on Saturday, scoring 10 pts, but he was obviosuly not close to 100%. It is doubtful that he will be 100% tonight, and is questionable if he will play. Battling the WVU 1-3-1 zone, having that big body to anchor inside is a huge advantage for the Panthers. They have also found good luck with Sam Young on the baseline using his athleticism to score over the 1-3-1 defense.

West Virginia will need to shoot the 3-ball effecively and slow Pitt inside to have a chance to night. Coming off a 9-41 effort beyond the arc at Providence is not encouraging, but the Mountaineers have had a week off to regroup and get their touch back. Darris Nichols will look to run the show and get Frank Young and Alex Ruoff the ball in position to light it up from beyond the arc. Joe Alexander and Da'Sean Butler will try to slash to the basket and keep defenses honest with their ability to hit from beyond the arc, but if they are not hitting a high percentage, Pitt will just grind out the game and pull away late.

Pittsburgh is not playing their best and with Gray definitely limited, if playing, this game might be a tad closer than expected. Pitt should still get the win, but the dangerous shooting of the Mountaineers will likely make it closer at times with a few flurries of 3's, but overall, too much Pitt.

NBE Blogger Preview: Pittsburgh 68 West Virginia 61


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