Pitt's offense hit its stride tonight and while they didn't score a ton of points, they made the most of their shots.
Funny thing, these Backyard Brawls. West Virginia hung in and made a game of it in the first half, holding onto a one-point lead. But the shots weren't there and the Mountaineers took a 33% shooting percentage back to Morgantown.
Pitt had four players in double figures and Ashton Gibbs added nine points for good measures. But the surprise of the game, without a doubt, was Lamar Patterson. Patterson had career-highs in minutes played (22) and points (11) and saw a lot of action. He was 4-6 from the field, and added five assists, three rebounds, two blocks, and a steal. Patterson's played well in flashes and I'm not to the point where I'd say I'm ready for him to contribute this much on a regular basis. But he looked extremely comfortable out there - especially for a redshirt freshman - and tonight's game made me feel much better about him getting in important games.
Patterson said his breakout game came after some good practice time:
"It felt real good," Patterson said. "In practice, I've been playing pretty good, so it felt good to go out on the court and finally put something together."
And for every hero, there was a goat. Deniz Kilicli whose career-high 19 points in the first game nearly buried Pitt. Tonight, though, Gary McGhee was much more physical against him and it showed. Kilicli wasn't nearly as comfortable and really looked frustrated at times. Not only was he ineffective, he was actually a liability, scoring only two points and fouling out in 12 minutes. And I don't know how it played on TV, but in person, he was really out of place defensively on occasion.
It wasn't all good news, though. Backup forward Talib Zanna injured his thumb before the game and will miss some time. More on this later.
Back to the game - West Virginia started off on the right foot, leading 31-30 at halftime. Then, it all seemed to go bad:
"The second half, it was just like there was a lid on the basket," said Kevin Jones, who scored all nine of his points in the first half. "I don't know, we didn't have the will or we didn't have tenacity to get back in the game."
Meanwhile, that basket was wide open for Pitt:
And Brad Wanamaker says it was a matter of simply getting comfortable:
That one-point lead by West Virginia at the half had to feel good. If you come into the Pete where the visiting team wins less than 10% of the time and play to a virtual te at the half, you've got to feel like you're in great shape. Unfortunately for WVU, there were two halves to the game.
Pitt will win the Big East regular season title with two wins in its final three games against Louisville, South Florida, and Villanova. If they do that, I think a No. 1 seed could be theirs for the taking.
The cynic would believe that Huggins is only saying that to build Pitt up for a colossal fall, but I don't think that's what he's doing.
And after the game, the PG's Bob Smizik has some thoughts on the team.