West Virginia thunders past Pitt with 2nd-half surge | TribLIVE.com
WVU

West Virginia thunders past Pitt with 2nd-half surge

Jerry DiPaola
1948211_web1_gtr-PittBasketball

If the Backyard Brawl is supposed to create a hostile environment for the opposing team, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins didn’t see anything like that Friday night at Petersen Events Center.

Pitt was anything but a hostile host in a 68-53 loss to Mountaineers in the 187th renewal of one of college basketball’s oldest rivalries.

With 6-foot-9, 258-pound freshman Oscar Tshiebwe scoring 20 points with 17 rebounds and three blocks, West Virginia (2-0) owned the boards with a 51-35 rebounding edge and, incredibly, held Pitt (2-2) to three field goals after halftime.

Pitt coach Jeff Capel called Pitt’s second-half shooting effort (3 for 25) “as bad as I’ve seen, as bad as I’ve been a part of.”

After courageously slugging it out with the bigger, stronger Mountaineers in the first half and going to the locker room only down, 36-35, Pitt lost the game soon after the start of the second half.

“In the second half,” Capel said, “we got four shots at the basket early and got nothing out of it. “We didn’t finish strong. We didn’t play through contact and I thought that gave them even more confidence to be even more physical and to become even more dominant.”

Capel said there wasn’t enough of an effort to play together when adversity struck.

“Guys know we’re struggling and we have some guys who say `I have to do it, instead of we have to do it.’ ” Capel said. “We have to continue to grow in that aspect of the game. We have to understand basketball is a we sport.”

Huggins said he thought Pitt’s two sophomore guards, Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens, “got worn down a little.”

No, Capel said. “We just didn’t play well.”

McGowens led Pitt in scoring with 13 points, but only one after halftime when he attempted just one shot from the field. Johnson, who totaled 30 points in the first three games, scored only four.

Worn down or just defended well, it didn’t matter much in the end. West Virginia won the game in the paint where Tshiebwe was dominant. Pitt was faced with a distinct size disadvantage, with four of the Mountaineers’ five starters 6-7 or taller.

Tshiebwe is the toughest of the group.

“What he does is rebound the ball as well as anyone in college basketball,” Huggins said. “He takes a beating physically and it doesn’t bother him. It’s hard to get the ball out of his hands once he gets both hands on it.

“Good players do what they’re good at doing. He got our other guys open shots because he ran and collapsed the defense.”

Huggins said there was nothing hostile about the atmosphere at the Pete, but that was not meant as a knock on the Oakland Zoo or the crowd of 11,725, many of whom were cheering heartily for the Mountaineers.

“I never understood the meaning of hostile,” Huggins said. “I didn’t see anybody with spears and knives and machine guns.

“I just thought it was a whole bunch of people paid some money and came in here and watched a good ball game.”

Friday’s game was the third in a row in the Backyard Brawl series, and Huggins said he would like to see it continue after it was interrupted for five years earlier this decade.

“Why not?” he said.

“The way we travel in our league (the Big 12), it’s refreshing to jump on bus and ride an hour, believe me.

“I don’t know why we don’t play every sport.”

He said neither team needs the other. Good opponents aren’t hard to find.

But he added, “You can’t find meaningful games like this one is for the fan base.”

Get the latest news about Pitt basketball and all things Panthers athletics.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected]web.com or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | WVU | Pitt
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.