Body blow staggers WVU in Coliseum
MORGANTOWN - There was a time in Monday's hoops version of the Backyard Brawl in which the Coliseum literally shook.
Afterward, however, the Mountaineer players, not their building, were shaken.
Pittsburgh won its third straight, this one 72-66, while West Virginia fell for the third straight time.
The blowout at the end of the Seton Hall game, the blown call at the end of the Syracuse loss and the blown opportunity at home against rival Pitt finally seemed to hit the Mountaineers.
"Personally, I'd like to punch some stuff right now," said WVU center Deniz Kilicli. "That's how I feel. I don't want to do anything; I don't want to talk to anybody."
"It's really frustrating what's going on. I mean, I know we could have beaten Syracuse. We could've beaten Pitt. We could've beaten St. John's. And we didn't. It's slipped away. And that's really frustrating."
WVU point guard Jabarie Hinds likewise hung his head.
"They got every loose ball," Hinds said of Pitt. "We weren't hungry enough to get any. It showed."
Actually, a couple things showed. One, Pitt is back after regaining point guard Tray Woodall. Despite the Panthers' record of 14-9, coach Jamie Dixon has a talented team. His program is one of the nation's top five in regard to winning percentage over the last 11 years. It was picked in the preseason coaches' poll to finish fourth in the Big East, while the Mountaineers were picked to finish seventh. The league's coaches know a little bit about talent.
Woodall has returned from injury in dazzling form. On Monday, he lit up Hinds, among others for 24 points.
"I learned something," Hinds said. "He won the battle. He had a very good game. I'm going to watch film on this game and see all my mistakes and keep getting better."
Pitt is getting better. Perhaps West Virginia's young team is getting tired. Kilicli and others pointed to the Panthers' effectiveness on loose balls.
"It rolled - and [the Panthers] were there," Kilicli said. "That's what happened to us. We didn't get any loose balls ... That's what killed us, I think. And it killed us the whole game."
They are the vital "50-50" balls.
"We lost them all," Kilicli said. "And that's what we stand for: getting them all. We never have a player - I mean, K.J. plays great - since Da'Sean [Butler] who's created [shots]... So we have to get all the loose balls and hustle a lot to beat teams. When we don't, it is like this."
This game will be known for a few things. One is the way the Coliseum turned into a powder keg when WVU coach Bob Huggins received a technical foul. ("I've had a bunch of technical fouls in my career," Huggins said. "But I've never had one for yelling at a player for not making a rotation. I was frustrated because I have a four-year guy who doesn't make a rotation ... I was yelling at him and this guy T's me from across the court - and I'm yelling at Truck [Bryant]. He couldn't have thought I was yelling at him. He wasn't even in my field of vision.")
The game will be remembered for the way Pitt dissected WVU's defense at times. The Panthers fought through foul trouble. It took care of the ball. It threw a couple wrinkles, including a zone, at the Mountaineers.
"I think our depth was an advantage," Dixon said. "We went to a little bit different offense. And, as the game wore on, we were more patient. We were more aware of what we were trying to do."
WVU, meanwhile, made mistakes. There were chances to regain the advantage late. Gary Browne hustled - again - but made mistakes. Jones had a chance to tie the game - and shot an air ball.
"We have to improve our defense, our rotations," Hinds said. "We have to stop penetration. Guard the ball. If we take teams out of their sets, they're just going to ball screen. So we have to guard the ball."
Pitt might have more athletes. WVU might be tired. Hinds, though, shook his head.
"They were just hungrier," he said. "They saw it and went after it. We were two seconds late."
Now it's time for WVU to take a break and rest some legs.
It's time to cease punching things in the locker room. And simply fight back.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.