Pittsburgh West Virginia basketball

West Virginia forward Jalen Bridges (11) shoots while defended by Pittsburgh forward Mouhamadou Gueye (15) during a game in Morgantown Nov. 12. 

MORGANTOWN — They picked up the Backyard Brawl right where it left of before COVID as West Virginia won its fifth straight in the rivalry and its 100th all time, 74-59, in a game that twice almost exploded into fisticuffs in the first half but that was clearly a TKO for the Mountaineers over Pitt.

The victory was Bob Huggins' 902nd of his career, tying the Hall of Famer Bob Knight on the all-time list, not that there was any celebration.

"People think it's BS, but I don't think about it," Huggins said. "Today, honest to God, I thought more about this lady in New Philadelphia who sent me a poem about my father. It had been buried in her achieves somewhere and her grandchild found it and it's the neatest thing."

Huggins father, Charley, a Hall of Fame coach in Ohio, died recently.

The Panthers were flummoxed by West Virginia's aggressive defense and turned the ball over 32 times, just 8 turnovers short of the all-time opponent's record as the first November sellout crowd in WVU history continued a chant that sounded very much like "Eat Spit Pitt."

In the opener, WVU turned over Oakland's point guard 13 times and in this game the Mountaineers three point guards, Malik Curry, Kedrian Johnson and Kobe Johnson turned over the Pitt point guards 12 times

They are doing it without reliving Press Virginia.

"They really wear on people," Huggins said.

"If you have a point guard and a backup point guard who can speed up the opposing point guard every single play, it changes things," Taz Sherman said.

"It starts on the defensive end," Curry added after a game in which he went 5 for 5 from the field for 10 points with three assists, no turnovers and two steals. "I'm going to get deflections and steals and get to the basket and score the ball.

"I knew how they were playing their ball screens and I knew how to attack it," he continued.

At 7:10 p.m. there was a Panther sighting, five or six Pitt players venturing out onto the Coliseum floor to take some shots ... at the basket and from a student section that was rapidly filling up.

Funny, no matter how much time passes, the Maniacs remain ... well, the Maniacs.

Strangely, while WVU was warming up taking shots, Gabe Osabuohien was practicing taking charges. Only kidding, that's something that comes naturally to him.

It was obvious even before they rolled out the carpet and introduced the Mountaineers that this was different, the kind of thing a university, a city and a school had been waiting for. And, just to whet the appetite, WVU provided some great Backyard Brawl video, everything from Jack Fleming holding up the Beat Pitt sign to WVU's own Pitt ... Kevin PITTsnogle.

Wasn't much later, during a time out, that the fans went nuts as they put him and the attendance on the big screen.

The game didn't disappoint. If this was what we all were missing because of COVID-19, bring out the vaccine.

Everything about this game was up close and personal, twice within 20 seconds almost erupting into a real brawl. Each time Pitt's Femi Odukale found himself on the floor in the midst of a WVU scrum. Each time he came up pushing and looking to fight, and he would have been obliged except that the officials intervened.

Coincidently, one of the officials was Kipp Kissinger. Interesting isn't it when they needed a peacemaker on the floor they had the wrong Kissinger, Kipp, not Henry.

What was obvious was that Huggins had performed some kind of defensive miracle since the opening win over Oakland, a rather lackluster performance. This time the defense was pushing the issue and by halftime they had forced 18 Pitt turnovers, which made it rather easy for them to have built a 36-24 lead.

Five assists and 18 turnovers is never a winning formula and this was a true team effort by Pitt to get to 18, eight of the nine players who saw action in the half committing at least one.

The only thing that kept Pitt in the game was that the Panthers shot 50% from the field, which didn't match WVU's shooting of 51.7%.

What this Brawl was lacking as play went into the second half was something almost every WVU game has, fans screaming at the officials.

They took care of that through the first 10 minutes of the second half as Pitt made the game turn plum ugly as they whittled away and got the lead under 10 points.

But that's when WVU found some electrifying offense, Malik Curry driving to the basket, floating through the air was a Pitt big defender soaring into the air. Not to worry, he simply lofted a floater over him for the score.

Then it was Taz Sherman's turn, a nifty crossover that allowed him to split two defenders, one hacking on one of his arms, one on the other ... but he still somehow got the ball off and scored it, adding a free throw.

The gap now was widening and a trio of 3s, two from Jalen Bridges and one from Sean McNeil, got the lead to 21.

Follow @bhertzel on Twitter

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