Pitt Wins in 3OT
By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
February 12, 2009
PITTSBURGH - The game was played on Friday the 12th, but it might as well have been Friday the 13th as far as West Virginia is concerned.
Pitt made up a seven-point deficit with a minute left in regulation, and then made the free throws when it needed them to outlast fifth-ranked West Virginia, 98-95, in triple overtime at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh.
“We gave it away,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “When you’re up seven with a minute to go and you’re a good team, you end up winning by 12 or 13.”
West Virginia shot 70.3% percent from the free throw line, but it was free throw shooting that cost the Mountaineers a chance to pick up a rare road win at Pitt.
Three missed free throws by Darryl Bryant and Da’Sean Butler (all front-end of one-and-ones) allowed Pitt to make up the difference at the end of regulation. Still, West Virginia led by five, 68-63, with 34 seconds left after a pair of Bryant free throws. But Travon Woodall hit a jumper with 32 seconds left and then a Bryant turnover with eight seconds left allowed Ashton Gibbs’ 3 to tie the game at 68.
Bryant tried to win it in regulation but couldn’t get his shot to go down.
“We go to the line and don’t make free throws and I can live with that,” said Huggins. “But then we go down and we don’t guard, we don’t rebound the ball and we just hand it to them.
“We throw it inbounds and we just hand them the ball. We have their best player guarded and were let him take a three. We’re up three with the clock running down and we let him shoot a 3? That’s makes no sense to me.”
Pitt looked like it had the game wrapped up in the first overtime, but Gibbs’ missed free throw with seven seconds left gave Bryant enough time to race down the floor and hit a 3 at the buzzer to send it into a second overtime.
Once again, the Mountaineers needed good fortune to send it into a third extra session when Pitt’s Gary McGhee fouled Butler on a 3-point attempt with the Panthers leading by three. Butler made all three free throws to tie the game, and Pitt’s Wanamaker and McGhee missed close tries at the basket that could have won it in the second overtime.
Butler opened the third overtime with a jumper to give West Virginia a 90-88 lead before Gilbert Brown answered with a layup. West Virginia led again, 95-94, on a Butler jumper with 43 seconds left.
Brown’s two free throws 15 seconds later gave the Panthers a 96-95 advantage, and two more free throws by Gibbs following an Ebanks miss put the Panthers ahead by three, 98-95, with 11 seconds left.
Then Bryant’s two-point try missed with eight seconds to go and McGhee grabbed the rebound.
This loss stings for a variety reasons.
One, it all but eliminates West Virginia from contention for the Big East regular-season title, the Mountaineers now trailing league leaders Syracuse and Villanova by three games in the loss column with six regular season games remaining. Two, the loss makes it a three-way tie with Pitt and Georgetown for third place in the conference standings at 8-4.
Three, Pitt’s win gives the Panthers the tiebreaker over West Virginia right now on the basis of Pitt’s victory at Syracuse earlier this year. Marquette could also become a factor for a tournament bye with a 6-5 record and a very favorable schedule heading down the stretch.
And finally, the loss comes against West Virginia's biggest rival.
“We put ourselves in a really bad spot now,” said Huggins. “We’re tied with Pitt and Georgetown and we’re liable to play the first day of the tournament. We’re not going to get one of the four byes unless we get this thing turned around.”
West Virginia’s 95 points tonight came from only six players – Butler (32), Bryant (20), Devin Ebanks (17), Wellington Smith (11), Kevin Jones (8) and John Flowers (7).
The Mountaineers shot 41.9% from the floor (31 of 74), 33.3% from 3-point distance (7 of 21) and it had a 51-44 advantage on the glass, but they were enjoying a much more sizable margin midway through the second half on the glass when West Virginia appeared to be controlling the game. The Mountaineers’ biggest lead was 10, 47-37, with 15:42 left following a Smith 3.
Wanamaker and Gibbs each scored 24 for Pitt, now 19-6, 8-4.
“You just can’t let people straight-line drive you,” said Huggins. “That’s something that we’re going to have to fix.”
West Virginia (19-5, 8-4) has lost two straight for the first time this year. Four days earlier on Monday West Virginia dropped a tough, 82-75 decision to No. 4 Villanova in a game that also saw the Mountaineers unable to cash in at the line.
The loss was West Virginia’s fifth in a row at the Petersen Events Center; the Mountaineers’ lone victory in the eight-year-old facility came in 2005.
It was also the first triple-overtime game in the 180-game history of the Backyard Brawl. WVU and Pitt played a double-overtime game on Dec. 9, 1989 in Morgantown that West Virginia won 97-93.
West Virginia resumes conference play next Wednesday at Providence, which plays at Villanova tomorrow afternoon.
“We should have won the game. There is no other way to put it,” said Huggins. “Instead we have two losses in a row and we have to get ready to go on the road in this league, which is hard.”
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