PITTSBURGH- A once lively collection of Pitt Panther basketball fans exited early to the sounds of the West Virginia Mountaineer faithful heckling them from the top level of the Petersen Events Center, as the Pittsburgh Panthers were given a sound 81-56 thrashing in the 2022 edition of the backyard brawl.
With only two of Pitt’s five starters (Elliott and Frederiko) playing 30+ minutes, Pitt was forced to rely on bench depth that just couldn’t get the job done tonight, as WVU’s bench outscored them 42-10.
Despite claims from coach Bob Huggins earlier this week that the rivalry between the two teams had died down, it was clear that there’s still a little something extra between these two teams 189 matchups later.
Through their first three possessions the Panthers coughed up the ball in each, but they got hot from there. Down 8-2, Greg Elliott took matters into his own hands. Elliott would go on a tear, hitting his first three attempts from beyond the arc, sending a raucous Pete crowd into a frenzy.
The Mountaineers matched that frenetic pace step for step, shooting 11-12 from the field. Especially dominant was F Mohamed Wague, as his size proved to be a consistent problem down low for Frederiko and Guillermo Diaz Graham. Wague was a perfect 4-4 from the field, contributing 9 points.
Fouls were relatively easy to come by, and both teams quickly found their way into foul trouble. With 12 called on Pitt and 11 on WVU, both teams were forced to send players to the bench early. The Panthers’ absence of any established presence down low with Hinson, Burton, and Frederiko benched with 2 PF each led the Mountaineers to take advantage of a guard-heavy lineup and establish a presence down low.
Elliott led the Panthers on the half with 12 points, all from the FT line or beyond the arc. Nate Santos also contributed in an increased role, going 3-4 from the field for 7 points.
While the Panthers shot relatively well, (12-24 FG, 5-12 3FG) their inability to keep pace with a hot Mountaineer squad (16-26 FG, 4-9 3FG) and control the paint sent them into the breakdown 36-47.
The second half started with symptoms of the same plague that forced the Panthers into the half down 11. Hinson picked up his third foul and moments later Cummings would be on the receiving end of his fourth.
Greg Elliott would then go down holding his knee, adding injury to insult in this case.
Now without their floor general as well as their leading scorer from the first half for much of the second, Pitt began to spiral. 7 minutes into the half, Jamarius Burton’s 5 points were all the Panthers had mustered. Lazy defense in conjunction with some whistle-happy officiating seemed to really take Pitt out of the game.
Every basket Pitt scored seemed to be countered by a basket for the Mountaineers, never really generating the energy required for a valiant comeback effort.
With ten minutes to go in the half Capel’s squad appeared to have switched into a 2-3 zone, and while change was needed, WVU dissected the new defense with ease, constantly forcing a Panther into an aggressive close-out on the corners with consistency.
One such instance led to a fifth and final foul called on Nelly Cummings, ending his evening prematurely.
Multiple extended scoreless streaks would be the nail in Pitt’s coffin, as the Panthers only recorded one FG in the final eight minutes of play.
- With the absence of John Hugley IV, the Panthers are lacking in front-court depth. The first half had a near-full guard lineup rolled out toward the end, and the Mountaineers took advantage.
- What is the defensive identity of this team? While you can only take so much from two contests, the stout defensive effort seen against UT-Martin was nowhere to be found today. Pitt was cut apart by tight passes, and anything swung from one corner to the other sent the whole team scrambling.
- Turnover problems. The Panthers turned the ball over 19 times tonight and were lucky to only surrender 19 points off of turnovers. The pressing defense left the Panthers scrambling, and they lost their head collectively.
- Points- Jamarius Burton (16)
- Assists- Nelly Cummings (3)
- Rebounds- Nate Santos/Burton (7)
WHAT IS NEXT:
Pitt heads to Brooklyn on November 16th (Wednesday) for their first ranked opponent of the year when they take on #22 Michigan in the Legends Classic.