PITTSBURGH — It’s the second installment of the Backyard Brawl on the hardwood tonight as West Virginia visits No. 4 Pitt at Petersen Events Center.
Here’s the breakdown…
Pitt can sweep the series this year with a win tonight. The Panthers went to the Coliseum in Morgantown Feb. 7 and defeated the Mountaineers, 71-66, without leading scorer Ashton Gibbs.
Gibbs returned Saturday at St. John’s in a big way with 26 points in Pitt’s last-second loss, 60-59. He and the Panthers are looking to rebound and get a win to get back on the right track with just four games left before the Big East tournament begins March 8 at Madison Square Garden.
The last time these two teams played at the Pete it went three overtimes as the Panthers won in one of the most memorable games in this rivalry’s history.
West Virginia has put together an impressive record/resume considering all the off-court (and one time, on-to-off court) issues. The Mountaineers recently defeated No. 7 Notre Dame at home, 72-58.
West Virginia found great success in the post against Pitt the last time around as Deniz Kilicli scored 19 points — most came when matched up against Pitt center Gary McGhee.
Casey Mitchell leads the Mountaineers in scoring with 14.8 points per game and Kevin Jones is always a threat, averaging 12.7 points and 7.1 rebounds.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Pitt small forward Gilbert Brown. He hasn’t been very consistent offensively and it showed against St. John’s. He hasn’t shot well lately and has led all individual players in turnovers the past three games.
While Gibbs scored 26 points against the Red Storm — a career high — no other Pitt player had more than seven. That has to change if the Panthers aspire to make a long tournament run.
Brown is the perfect man to step up and produce and, as a senior, it’s time. He didn’t reach double figures against WVU last time around but did hit big shots in the last five minutes. He needs to show more of those traits.
McGhee against Kilicli. Kilicli used his left-handed hook shot to do serious damage against McGhee Feb. 7 and it gave the Mountaineers a lot of life early in the game.
Kilicli was the biggest reason WVU even competed with Pitt in that game. At the same time, McGhee allowed it to happen.
Pitt needs a stronger post performance tonight.
Pitt has scored more than 70 points just twice in the past seven games (71). The Panthers used to average nearly 80 points a game, but that number has dropped to just above 75.
Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog