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After a sloppy first half that saw both teams play below expectations, the Panthers and Mountaineers rebounded from their poor starts. But in the end, Pitt was too much for the home team, winning 71-66 on the road.
Both teams shot under 40% in the first half, but it was the Panthers who shot only 29% that made the biggest adjustment. Pitt went to the basket more instead of settling for jump shots and shot more than 60% from the field in the second half.
All eyes of Pitt fans were on Travon Woodall, who was filling in for the injured Ashton Gibbs. Woodall had a first half to forget, going 1-6 from the field for only four points. But he found his shot in the second as he finished 4-11 and had 12 points, three assists, and two steals. Woodall also hit the team’s only three-pointer of the game late in the second half and had only one turnover.
On the West Virginia side, Pitt simply couldn’t stop Deniz Kilicli who had a career-high 19 points in 26 minutes. Jamie Dixon doesn’t deserve much criticism, but his refusal to double-team Kilicli allowed him to constantly shoot a modified hook shot over Gary McGhee time after time. One of the few times Pitt was able to stop Kilicli was on a foul that wasn’t called.
As expected, Bob Huggins went to Casey Mitchell a bit more in this game, playing him for 24 minutes. Mitchell played only 13 minutes in his first game back from suspension on Saturday against Villanova. Mitchell, though, struggled shooting only 2-10 from the field.
Both teams are back in action on Saturday as Pitt takes on Villanova while West Virginia faces DePaul.
For more post-game analysis check out the game recap at SB Nation Pitt blog Cardiac Hill.
As I mentioned in the Ashton Gibbs feature on SB Nation Pittsburgh, Pitt’s offense was going to struggle a bit with the loss of its top scorer. That’s exactly what we’ve seen in the first half so far as West Virginia clings to a 25-23 lead.
Travon Woodall, who is starting for Gibbs, hasn’t given Pitt very much to this point. He’s shooting only 1-6 so far with four points.
Both teams have struggled a bit, but Pitt is the team playing far below their potential. The Panthers are shooting a horrible 29% from the field – well below West Virginia’s 39%. And while the Mountaineers have gotten some great production from Deniz Kilicli (10 points) on the bench, Pitt’s bench has been ice cold going 0-7 from the field. The Panthers’ reserves have only been able to muster two points on J.J. Moore free throws.
In addition, a great area of strength for Pitt this season has been three-point shooting. That’s not been there tonight as the team is 0-4 from that range. West Virginia hasn’t exactly been lighting it up from the outside, either, as they’re 1-7.
While Pitt has not played well, the Mountaineers have some room for improvement as well and would like to get some points from the team’s leading scorer, Casey Mitchell. Mitchell is currently scoreless in the game and the Mountaineers may need him to score a bit if they’re going to hold Pitt off.
As frustrating as it was for Pitt in the first half, the message I’m almost sure they’re getting right now is that they’ve played horrible and are basically even with the Mountaineers. Both teams have really played poorly in the first half, but I don’t expect that to continue in the second.
It's a BIG Monday night in Morgantown, with the hated Pitt Panthers coming to town. With West Virginia coming off of it's worst loss of the season, things aren't looking great for the gold n' blue. I'm off to the Coliseum in a few, but here's what I'm looking for tonight:
I'm off to the Coliseum. I'll be the guy in the Coonskin Cap in section 18. It's been a rough weekend of sports for me, so I really wanna get this one.
Tonight, Pitt and West Virginia square off in the first of two basketball games against each other this season. Tonight's contest is in Morgantown and the two teams will meet again at The Pete in Pittsburgh a few weeks. Pitt has gotten the best of West Virginia in recent memory as the Panthers have gone 8-3 against the Mountaineers over the past five seasons. But as last year's triple-overtime game proved, anything can happen when these two teams meet, and the favored team doesn't always win.
The game could be decided by the status of the teams' biggest stars. Pitt will be missing its top player, point guard Ashton Gibbs, who sustained a knee injury in the team's victory on Saturday against Cincinnati. Gibbs is expected to miss at least the next couple of games. The Panthers will need others to help make up for the 16 points per game they'll be missing. Backup point guard Travon Woodall should get the start tonight in Gibbs' absence.
The Mountaineers, on the other hand, have just gotten back their leading scorer, Casey Mitchell. Mitchell recently returned from a three-game suspension and played sparingly in West Virginia's loss to Villanova this weekend. He didn't start in that game and while it's unknown how much time he'll get tonight, I expect him to play more than the 13 minutes he did on Saturday.
So when you look at the fact that Woodall will be inserted into the starting lineup, Pitt could be without its top two bench players tonight. That would be a fairly big blow, and would force guard Lamar Patterson (who should return after a one-game suspension for his role in skipping out on a restaurant bill), forward Talib Zanna, and center J.J. Richardson to play significant minutes tonight.
The loss of Gibbs and potentially Taylor is something that may cause Pitt to be a bit more passive on defense. Pitt doesn't have many options behind Woodall and McGhee and both will need to stay out of foul trouble if the Panthers are to avoid being upset tonight. The problem is that defense is Pitt's bread and butter, and they still need to remain fairly aggressive to avoid straying too far away from their typical style of play.
The Panthers are 9-1 in conference play, while West Virginia is 6-4. Still, on the road, fourth-ranked Pitt is facing a team quite capable of beating them.