NO GIBBS, NO WORRIES AS PITT WINS AT WVU
ESPN's Rivalry Week kicked off with a Big Monday BIG EAST match-up between No. 4 Pittsburgh and West Virginia at the Coliseum in Morgantown. A crowd of 14,175, however, went home disappointed as the visiting Panthers earned a 71-66 road win to maintain their two-game lead in the BIG EAST standings.
Pitt improved to 10-1 in BIG EAST play and did so without leading scorer Ashton Gibbs, who could miss 10-14 days with a sprained knee. Gibbs injured the knee in Saturday's victory over Cincinnati. The junior guard tied a career-high with 25 points in the 71-59 win, but was unable to go tonight.
Without Gibbs the Panthers got back to being physical and took it right to one of the conferences toghest teams themselves.
“They out-manned us is what happened,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins to MSNsportsNET.com. “They beat us to death on the offensive glass and drove it where they wanted to drive it. They just out-manned us.”
Pitt held a 40-28 rebounding edge, with 18 of those boards coming off the offensively glass which led to 16 second-chance points. Pitt also outscored WVU 42-24 in the paint behind Nasir Robinson's 15 points and 8 rebounds and Gary McGhee's 13 points.
West Virginia got out to a fast start, scoring the game's first 6 points and leading 12-4 five minutes in. The Panthers struggled without Gibbs in the first half, scoring a season-low 23 1st half points on 9-31 shooting from the field. Luckily the Mountaineers were barely much better, scoring only 25 points of their own in the opening 20 minutes.
The second half was a different story as Pitt shot 60.7% (17-28) from the field and after Cam Thoroughman scored the first two points of the second half for WVU the Panthers ran off a 16-6 run to take a 39-33 lead with 12:44 left on a Lamar Patterson transition basket.
The Mountaineers did not go away however. Led by Deniz Kilicli and Dalton Pepper, WVU regained the lead at 46-45 on a Pepper three-pointer with 8:41 left.
Travon Woodall, starting in the place of Gibbs, would quiet the Coliseum crowd with a jumper to give Pittsburgh the lead back on the next possession and his three-pointer would cap a 9-2 lead that restored the six-point margin, 54-48, with 6:30 left.
Kilicli would lead another WVU surge as he finished with a career-high 19 points on an array of old-fashioned sweeping hook shots and post-up moves. His traditional three-point play with 4:03 left again brought West Virginia within one, 59-58.
Again the Panthers would answer, this time it was Gilbert Brown converting a tough lay-up as Pitt would clinch the game with an 8-2 run where Brown would score on another lay-up where he was fouled on a nice feed from Brad Wanamaker.
“Ashton wasn’t playing and I think we really got the message across to our guys in the last 24 hours since we found out he wasn’t playing,” said Pitt coach Jamie Dixon. “Everybody else was asking who was going to step up – we didn’t have to have anyone step up. We just had to play the way we have to play and execute.”
After their slow start the Panthers scored 48 points in the second half. An impressive feat considering WVU has allowed an average of 50 points A GAME, total, in their last four outings and just 45 a game in their last two home games.
Besides Robinson (15) and McGhee (13), Woodall also reached double figures by scoring 12, including three clutch second-half jumpers. The sophomore point guard out of St. Anthony's in Jersey City (NJ) also turned the ball over just once while being on the floor a team-high 36 minutes. Wanamaker added 11 points and led Pitt with 9 rebounds.
Without Gibbs Pitt only attempted six threes with only Woodall connecting once.
“They drive it more; Wannamaker and Brown drive it,” said Huggins. “Robinson drives it. They just attack the rim.”
Pittsburgh has now won 10 games in BIG EAST play in 10 consecutive seasons, eight of which have been under Jamie Dixon. The program's strength and depth was on display again tonight in Morgantown and there probably was a no more fitting way to reach the impressive milestone than a victory in those circumstances on the floor of their arch-rival in the 181st meeting between the two programs in the basketball edition of the Backyard Brawl.
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