ShareThis Page

Pitt basketball braces for a full night of pressure against West Virginia

Jerry DiPaola
| Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, 7:58 p.m.
UC-Santa Barbara's Christian Terrell and Max Heidegger defend on Pitt's Jared Wilson-Frame in the first half Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017 at Petersen Events Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
UC-Santa Barbara's Christian Terrell and Max Heidegger defend on Pitt's Jared Wilson-Frame in the first half Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017 at Petersen Events Center.

Like every coach who must play West Virginia, Pitt's Kevin Stallings is wary of the Mountaineers' full-court pressure defense.

But he must deal with another dilemma while preparing his team for the 185th installment of the Backyard Brawl — the first meeting in five years — Saturday at Petersen Events Center.

“Their half-court pressure is just as good, if not better, than their full-court pressure,” he said.

“It's not just a matter of, ‘OK, you can breathe deeply and take a sigh of relief when you get the ball past half court.' Their half-court defense is outstanding.”

No. 18 West Virginia (8-1) leads the nation in turnover margin (plus-10), creating 192 and committing 102. Pitt (5-4) is approaching the depths of NCAA Division I in turnovers, ranking 303rd of 341 teams with a minus-2.6 margin (10 7130).

What's most striking about West Virginia's defense is there is no rest from it.

Pitt junior Jared Wilson-Frame has spent the past two days preparing, including watching video of five West Virginia games. Asked how many times he saw the Mountaineers sit back in a conventional defense without pressing, he calmly answered, “Zero.”

Calm might be the key for Pitt in its ability to challenge West Virginia, the first ranked team on its schedule this season.

Although the game could turn into a mismatch if Pitt can't protect the ball, it might become a 40-minute teaching moment for Stallings' young team. Pitt will play No. 1 Duke, No. 10 Miami, plus games at Louisville and Virginia Tech, in the first 12 days of the ACC season.

“What West Virginia really does well is they try to force you to make decisions on the move,” Stallings said. “They're really good at it. They're good at speeding you up. You have to play the game as under control as possible.”

“They jump around a lot; they get really amped and excited,” Wilson-Frame said.

Stallings has attempted to simulate West Virginia's athleticism by putting more than five players on the floor against his regular ballhandlers in practice.

“You can simulate it for a possession or two or three,” he said, “but it's 40 minutes. Every time you take the ball out of bounds, you're going to see pressure and good pressure.

“You can be prepared for it, but at times there's a cumulative effect to it. That's the thing you really can't prepare for.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.