Digesting the Classic

So Pitt hung on in a triple-overtime thriller against WVU. This is, of course, the second time lightning has struck for Pitt. In the end, WVU, wasn't overly gracious:
Da'Sean Butler had 32 points and 11 rebounds, Darryl Bryant scored 20 and Devin Ebanks had 17 points and 10 rebounds, yet they couldn't prevent the Mountaineers (19-5, 8-4) from losing their second in a row after they led by double digits in each half.

"This is definitely one of the toughest losses I've had," Bryant said. "This game probably put Pitt in the NCAAs."
Well, it certainly didn't hurt, but I hope he wasn't referring to Pitt as a bubble team. That simply wasn't the case and with a good RPI and some solid wins, Pitt would have really had to collapse over their last few games to not make the tournament. Then of course, Huggy Bear weighed in:
"I've done this for 30 years, man," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said, asked if he could remember a game with so many swings. "There isn't much I haven't seen. They didn't fold, they continue to compete, but they couldn't have won without a lot of help from us."
That may be true and I'm actually inclined to agree with him. WVU had a major collapse in the final minute. But after it getting past regulation, Pitt blew TWO chances to put game out of hand. Even if you ARE right, show a little class. Note to coaches: You refusing to simply credit the winning team and leaving it at that doesn't make you sound intelligent. It makes you sound like a buffoon.

As the road team found out, it's incredibly difficult to beat Pitt at home. A lot of talk has gone on all season about the identity of this Pitt team and just how good they are. I have to admit we still might not know. But I really feel like this team grew up a lot in this game. A lot of guys played key roles and it was good to see a guy like Travon Woodall have an outstanding game.

About the whole atmosphere thing, I quietly chuckled to myself about WVU bracing themselves for the worst in Oakland. Pitt may have creative chants, but I don't ever recall any physical items being thrown from the Zoo at coaches or players. That's not to say it can't happen. A few knuckleheads can ruin it for everyone. But there's no history (to my knowledge) of that happening.

And as I mentioned earlier, both sides did their best to lose the game at times.

There's so much to point out in this game other than the game-changing play, Ashton Gibbs' three-pointer, which I mentioned in the previous post. Here are a few of my usual notes:

- Pitt just got killed by offensive rebounding. Had they lost this game in regulation, that would have been the main culprit. The final rebounding numbers didn't look that lopsided as WVU had 16 offensive boards. Problem was, in regulation, they had 14. FOURTEEN. In the words of Martin, "Damn, Gina." Part of it was due to the size, but much of it had to do with good ol' fashioned effort. And Pitt just wasn't trying hard enough.

- With so much height on WVU's team, I really wish Jamie Dixon had considered playing two bigs at the same time - especially when it was becoming evident that Pitt was getting killed on the boards. I'm not going to bring up the whole Dante Taylor/PF issue again, but a mix of McGhee and JJ Richardson in the frontcourt might have been intriguing. Richardson really played well again in the limited minutes he had.

- Back to Woodall - he really played incredible. To anyone who might have disagreed with my sentiment a few games back that Woodall needed more PT, how did this line taste? In 31 minutes - 12 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and...wait for it...0 turnovers. This isn't to say that he's 'back' or that he should be starting or anything absurd like that. I'll probably be criticizing him at some point in the near to immediate future. I'm merely stating that his play has gotten better lately and that he's earned more time in my opinion. He played well within the flow of the game today and he had two huge FTs with about :25 left in the third OT which he nailed.

- Not sure if anyone else noticed, but Coach Dixon broke an unwritten rule that he really hates doing by playing Gilbert Brown in the 1st half with two fouls. I'm guessing that he felt, like I did, that without he or Jermaine Dixon in there, that the game could have gotten a little out of hand.

- In my opinion, Brad Wanamaker has reached another plateau in his career. He's now gone from being a dependable player to turning into a leader. He had several moments where he took charge, driving to the basket and not waiting for someone else to make a play. I'm not saying I'm ready to declare him the guy who has to take the final shot in a game, but I wouldn't be terribly uncomfortable with it. He still has the inexplicable turnovers at times, but his game has really improved.

- McGhee ended a pretty decent game (including a very good defensive effort) with an incredible play late in the 3rd OT, handing the ball off to Ashton Gibbs before he could be fouled himself. Smart, smart, play.

- I don't do this much, but focusing on the other team for a minute here. WVU really is going to need to correct the free throw problem if they want to be a serious threat in the postseason. They shot a reasonable 70% tonight, but missed a bunch of key ones and that isn't the first time that's happened. WVU could really be in for a big upset if they're in a close game. If you take WVU's five closest games, they've been decided by a total of nine points and the team is only 2-3. Contrast that with Pitt's five closest games, which have been decided by a total of 17 points, but Pitt is 4-1. Missing free throws in close games will KILL you.

It was nice to see the Pitt fans stay classy until the bitter end, not rushing the court. I've seen too much of that this year and even though it's a big win, Pitt certainly shouldn't be storming the court anymore. Upset? Please. A ranked Pitt team beating ANYONE at home is no upset.

Desperate to see it again? Check out ESPN360.com (if you have the right cable provider).

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