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Pitt frosh Woodall has coming-of-age game

| Sunday, Feb. 14, 2010

He was the unlikely hero, a backup who made pivotal plays in the final minute of a triple-overtime thriller that will go down as one of the greatest comebacks in Pitt basketball history.

Travon Woodall picked a good time to have his coming-of-age game.

The redshirt freshman from Brooklyn, N.Y., replaced Jermaine Dixon, who fouled out with 49.5 seconds remaining in regulation, and he made an immediate impact. Woodall dished to Ashton Gibbs for a jumper, sank two free throws and a baseline floater and fed Gibbs for the game-tying 3-pointer.

Not only did No. 25 Pitt overcome a seven-point deficit to pull off a 98-95 upset of No. 5 West Virginia on Friday night at Petersen Events Center, but the Panthers might have found a point guard in the process.

"The guy who really stood out to me was Travon," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "We keep saying he's going to make us better, and he really played well. He really played within himself. He was big for us in so many ways."

It wasn't just Woodall's 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists without a turnover in 31 minutes before fouling out. It was what he allowed the Panthers to do: play at a faster pace and free Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker — who scored 24 points apiece — from being the primary ball handlers.

"Any time I'm on the floor, I feel like I need to have the ball in my hands," Woodall said. "I want to create for my teammates and get them open shots. I don't need to score, but I need to have the ball in my hands to set things up."

It was a turning point for Woodall, who admits to losing confidence over the course of the season.

He had several conversations with Jamie Dixon, including one this past week that lasted an hour. When Woodall related that he felt the need to make plays to stay in the game, Dixon implored him to concentrate on his defense and to make the simple pass, the simple play.

Woodall did that against West Virginia, and he might have won his coach over.

"He played like a veteran," Dixon said. "I'm very proud of him because I've really been on him. I've been pushing him, pushing him. I really believe he can be a big part of our improvement."

One of Woodall's biggest plays came in the first overtime, when he saw Brown flash to the lane and slipped a one-handed, no-look bounce pass to set up Brown's two-hand dunk for a 77-75 lead with 42.2 seconds left.

But Woodall missed out on a chance to be the hero in the second overtime, when he swished a shot just a split-second after time expired.

By then, though, Woodall already had made his mark.

"He's a creator, and he's a playmaker," Gibbs said. "He knocked down some big shots, and he created some big shots. I think he was really the key to the game, and I think the best is yet to come."

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