The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

February 8, 2011

Blue Monday

Pitt outmuscles Mountaineers for 71-66 win

MORGANTOWN — It had all the trimmings of a lovely night in basketball. Big Monday on ESPN, Sean McDonough, Bill Rafferty and referee Tim Huggins in town, giving it the feel of St. Patrick’s Day in February.

Even Jay Bilas was on hand, but no night can be perfect.

The main event was a Backyard Brawl and an entertaining one at that, complete with the required scuffle at one point that led to a couple of technical fouls, with a student section roaring “Eat Do-Do Pitt”, or something to that effect, and with high expectations that the West Virginia Mountaineers could beat the nation’s No. 4 team playing without its star player, Ashton Gibbs.

The high-scoring guard had come down with a knee problem and missed the game, but Pitt didn’t miss him, muscling WVU around in the second half and winning, 71-66, before 14,175 to go to 10-1 in the Big East. That equaled their best start ever in the conference.

Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers, on the other hand, dropped their fourth game out of the last seven, probably knocking them out of the top 25, having just been named No. 25 earlier in the day. The WVU record is 15-8, 6-5 in the Big East, where they now stand eighth.

It was a majestic performance put on by Pitt to overcome Deniz Kilicli at his best. The big Turk ruled the inside offensively, scoring a career-high 19 points by hitting 9 of 13 shots, most of them hooks from every angle imaginable.

“We finally threw him the ball. We should’ve thrown him the ball at the Villanova game and we didn’t. That was an emphasis yesterday, to make sure we throw him the ball when he’s working to get it,” Huggins said.

Kilicli was not particularly thrilled when it was all over, however.

“I’d rather score two points and win,” he said.

And make no doubt, Kilicli felt lousy about the result. This was no put on.

“I think we shouldn’t be playing that close. We could have beat them by 10 or 12 today,” he said.

The problem, Kilicli said, was that WVU did not play its game, whether they did it to themselves or Pitt took them out of it.

“We didn’t play like we do. That was not our game. We hustle, we get loose balls, we outrebound people, we run. That’s how we win games. We don’t have Kemba Walker. We don’t have 30-point scorers.

“We didn’t do that, so we lost.”

Kilicli willed the Mountaineers a two-point halftime lead at 25-23, hitting for 10 points in 12 minutes.

Then the roof caved in during the second half as Pitt played the kind of basketball it specializes in, a kind of basketball that even Huggins admires.

“It’s admirable in this time,” he said. “Guys want to play in the league. These guys share the ball. It’s refreshing. I mean, tonight it wasn’t [refreshing]. I can’t say what it was.”

What it was was effective.

By the time the game was over Pitt had 40 rebounds, 18 of them offensive, while WVU had 28, eight offensive.

And, of course, WVU made its normal number of mistakes, things that keep them from winning games.

“This bunch is hard to switch on, so we tried to play some point drop [defense],” Huggins said. “They ripped it up pretty good.”

So WVU went to man-to-man.

“I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but if you and me are guarding a guy and he doesn’t have the ball, there’s a problem,” Huggins said. “Someone shouldn’t be there. We have a two or three-point game and Gilbert Brown is over on the side by himself … with the ball. We got two guys on a guy without the ball.

“You can’t do those things against good teams. You can’t make those mistakes. You can’t let them get two, three and four shots every time down the floor.”

But that is just what happened and it put a damper on what might have been a decent evening for West Virginia fans.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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