West Virginia 74, Pitt 60


By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
March 12, 2009

West Virginia 74, Pitt 60
big east tournament - quarterfinals
madison square garden
new york, n.y.
Summary
 
1
2
F
West Virginia 36 38 74
Pitt 34 26 60
Stat Comparison
 
FG Made-Att 23-52 23-51
FG Percentage 44.2% 45.1%
3P Made-Att 4-14 0-8
3P Percentage 28.6% 00.0%
FT Made-Att 24-27 14-19
FT Percentage 88.9% 73.7%
Rebounds 33 27
Turnovers 9 13
Top WVU Players
Top Scorer
Top Rebounder
Devin Ebanks
20 Points
Devin Ebanks
7 Rebounds

He wasn’t the Big East rookie of the year, but Devin Ebanks sure played like it Thursday night. Ebanks scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead West Virginia to a 74-60 victory over second-ranked Pitt in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals in New York City.

Ebanks established a season high in points tonight against the Panthers after pulling down a season-high 18 rebounds in West Virginia’s 74-62 victory over Notre Dame Wednesday night.

“It’s not just today. Devin has been terrific from the Big East season on,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “He’s gotten so much better and he’s gotten so much better defensively.”

The third installment of the “Backyard Brawl” moved to the Big Apple after Pitt registered double-digit wins over the Mountaineers during the regular season.

Unlike the first two games, West Virginia found ways to score against Pitt’s defense and a 1-3-1 zone Huggins first employed against Notre Dame proved too difficult for the Panthers to solve.

“In all honesty they were too physical against us and that’s why we went 1-3-1,” Huggins said. “The 1-3-1, it’s hard to have post play with it because you are dropping so many people in around them. The first two games against Pitt, we were in both games and they just threw it inside to their bigs and we had a hard time against them because they are so much bigger and stronger than we are.

“With the 1-3-1 they really didn’t get the ball inside much against us tonight,” Huggins said.

West Virginia’s length on the wings also bothered Pitt’s shooters, the Panthers making just eight field goals and shooting 34 percent in the second half. Pitt missed all eight of its 3-point field goal tries.

After the game Huggins was asked to explain the 1-3-1 but deferred the question to his two veteran players because it is a defense they played so well under former coach John Beilein.

“I don’t know what they’re doing, ask them,” Huggins joked.

“We don’t have as many rules as we did before – we’re out there trying to get to the ball,” Ruoff said. “We’re trying to explain to our young guys what our rules used to be when Coach Beilein was here but there are too many. We’re just trying to make people uncomfortable.”

“The last time we played them we played point-drop zone and played them a lot man and Coach kind of talked about changing things up because they can adjust to things very quickly,” Butler added.

The Mountaineers also benefited from DeJuan Blair getting into quick foul trouble after the Panthers took an early five-point lead. Blair was whistled for his second foul with four minutes gone in the game and Pitt leading 9-4. WVU went right to work with Blair on the bench, taking a 15-13 lead on a three-point play by Ebanks.

The lead swelled to 24-18 after a 3-point jumper by Da’Sean Butler and a long two by Kevin Jones. A 9-2 Panther run gave Pitt a 27-26 lead with 5:14 remaining, and the two teams traded three more leads until Nasir Robinson tied the game at 34 with 13 seconds left.

A Flowers tip just ahead of the horn, later confirmed on replay, gave the Mountaineers a 36-34 halftime lead.

The Mountaineers (23-10) used a 9-3 run at the start of the second half to build their lead to eight, 45-37, and they got it to double digits at the 10-minute mark on back-to-back free throws by Ruoff and Ebanks.

Da’Sean Butler’s 3 with 5:18 remaining gave West Virginia its biggest lead of the game at 68-53.

“I’ve won a lot of games here but this game … they beat us twice during the season and we’re not a team to lose three times to any team,” Butler said.

The closest Pitt could get was eight when Blair’s layup with 1:56 left made it 68-60.

The Mountaineers were 24 of 27 from the free throw line for 88.9 percent and shot 44 percent from the floor. West Virginia also beat Pitt on the glass, 33-27.

Ruoff scored 18 points on 7 of 14 shooting and Butler contributed 16.

Flowers also came up big with 9 points and five rebounds in 22 minutes of action off the bench.

“John is good in the 1-3-1 because of his length,” Huggins said. “John’s gotten very tentative and I told him with the clock running down, ‘Step in and shoot it’ and he made that big 3 for us. He got some key rebounds for us and took a big charge at the end of the game.”

West Virginia killer Sam Young led the Panthers with 15 points, but took 17 shots (making six) to get his 15. Blair scored 14.

It’s the fourth time West Virginia has defeated a ranked team this year and the second-ranked Panthers are the highest ranked team the Mountaineers have defeated during Bob Huggins’ two-year tenure at his alma mater.

The Mountaineers advance to the Big East Tournament semifinals for the second straight year under Huggins, and will face the Connecticut-Syracuse winner at 9 pm.

Briefly:

  • West Virginia’s win over second-ranked Pitt was just the second time in school history the Mountaineers have defeated the nation’s No. 2-rated team (UCLA in 2007). Three times WVU has knocked off the No. 1-ranked team.

  • Bob Huggins boosts his Big East Tournament record to 4-1. Huggs is 35-11 all-time in conference tournament action.

  • West Virginia has won eight of its last 12 Big East Tournament games and 12 of its last 17 at Madison Square Garden.

  • Pitt will be watching the Big East Tournament championship game from home for the first time since 2005.



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