The Associated Press
Pittsburgh's Dante Taylor (11) blocks the shot of West Virginia's Darryl Bryant, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W.Va., on Monday, Jan. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/David Smith)
MORGANTOWN - Just about nothing went right for West Virginia in its Big Monday game with Pitt at the Coliseum, be it loose balls or shots that just wouldn't fall. Shoot, even when Bob Huggins tried to yell at Truck Bryant, it backfired on him in the form of a technical foul.Of course, that's pretty much the way things tend to go when a team finds itself mired in the kind of slump in which the Mountaineers currently find themselves.After West Virginia's 72-66 loss to the Panthers, though, Huggins would only allow that the breaks of the game were a small part of the problem. After all, sometimes you have to make your own breaks."We don't converge on the ball,'' Huggins said. "Yeah, I'm sure they got some bounces. You always get some bounces. But our center had the ball at the start of the second half and they just snatched the ball and got a layup. They beat us to the ball. We stand around and watch too much.''
Well, to start the second half of the Big East season, what the Mountaineers are watching now is not pretty.The loss extended West Virginia's losing skid to three games and marked the first time since Huggins returned to WVU that he's lost three in a row.The Mountaineers (15-8, 5-5 Big East) at least temporarily dropped to a tie for eighth place in the league, but now face a bit of a break after playing three games in six days. They have just one - Sunday at Providence - in the next eight days.Pitt (14-9, 3-7) continued its surge after suffering through an eight-game losing streak that included an 0-7 start to league play. The Panthers have now won three in a row.
The loss also extended to four WVU's current losing streak to the Panthers, who beat West Virginia in largely the same way they usually do."They just out-toughed us,'' said Kevin Jones, who managed his 14th double-double of the season and 26th of his career with 21 points and 13 rebounds. "They just wanted it more. They beat us to every loose ball. They played as a team.''Well, perhaps, but Pitt also got an exceptional individual performance, too.Tray Woodall, who averages less than 11 points per game and missed 12 games during Pitt's worst stretch of the season, had 16 points by halftime as the Panthers recovered from a cold start to lead 33-29 at the break. He would finish with 24. Gibbs added 15.
"He destroyed us,'' Huggins said of Woodall. "He absolutely destroyed us.''At the start, though, this appeared like anything but a night in which none of the bounces or breaks would go WVU's way. In fact, the Mountaineers made their first four shots, got 3-pointers from Jabarie Hinds and Bryant and led 17-9.The game then settled into a snoozer for a good 10 minutes, though, when Pitt went without a point for a stretch of nearly six minutes and WVU couldn't score a field goal for more than seven and a crowd of 13,032 had trouble staying interested.
But then Woodall capped a 17-6 Pitt run with a 3-pointer to give the Panthers their first lead at 26-23. Then his 3 just ahead of the buzzer made it 33-29 at the half. And in the second half, the Panthers extended the lead to as much as 10.And again, Huggins couldn't even yell at his players right. He screamed at Bryant over defensive assignments during a dead ball and official Sean Corbin thought he was screaming at him and gave him a technical.In the end, though, that didn't hurt much. Pitt got only one point out of it and WVU began clawing back. It got as close as 56-54 and gave Jones an open look at a 3-pointer for the lead. He air-balled it, though, and soon the margin was back up to 63-56 with 31/2 minutes to play. The Mountaineers never again got within one possession.Bryant added 14 points for WVU, Deniz Kilicli 12 and Hinds 10. But they were not easy points. Jones was also just 7-for-16 shooting and missed all five of his 3-pointers, while Bryant shot nothing but 3s (2-for-7). In all, after Hinds and Bryant hit those first two 3-pointers they attempted, WVU missed 17 of 19 the rest of the gameBut again, that just seems to be the way things go when a team is mired in a slump. Even injuries are working against WVU. Kevin Noreen, the only experienced backup to Kilicli in the middle, broke his ankle in the first half.All in all, it's probably good that West Virginia has nearly a week off until Sunday's game at Providence. Huggins will give his team two days off and then go from there.
"They're probably as tired of me as I am of them,'' Huggins said. "So two days off will be pretty good.''Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org