Feb. 13, 2010

PITTSBURGH (AP)--Gilbert Brown and Ashton Gibbs made two free throws each in the final 30 seconds after No. 25 Pittsburgh staged a frantic rally to tie it in regulation, then weathered three exhausting overtimes and West Virginia's own comeback to beat the No. 5 Mountaineers 98-95 on Friday night.

Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker scored 24 points each for Pitt (19-6, 8-4), which tied Georgetown and West Virginia for third place in the Big East by avenging a 19-point loss in Morgantown only 10 days before.

Da'Sean Butler had 32 points and 11 rebounds, but couldn't prevent the Mountaineers (19-5, 8-4) from losing their second in a row after they led by double digits for much of a game that featured a successive of momentum swings and missed chances.

The longest of the 180 games played by the Backyard Brawl rivals was also one of the most pulsating and exhausting, with the Mountaineers failing to hold a double-digit lead, Pitt surging back to tie it after trailing by five points with 35 seconds to play in regulation but then failing twice to put it away in overtime.

Pitt led 78-75 near the end of the first overtime but Darryl Bryant's 3 tied it with a second left. Butler made three free throws with 20.6 seconds remaining in the second overtime and Pitt's Gary McGhee missed a potential game-winning tip-in with a second remaining, forcing only the second three-overtime game in Panthers history. The first was against George Washington in 1975.

In the final overtime, Butler scored with 40.6 seconds left to put West Virginia up 95-94, but Brown--so exhausted moments before he couldn't dive on the floor for a loose ball--dropped in his two foul shots with 28.8 seconds left.

Devin Ebanks missed an off-balance jumper from the top of the key with 12 seconds to play, allowing Gibbs--whose free throw miss at the end of the first overtime set up Bryant's tying 3--converted his two free throws with 11.4 seconds remaining. Bryant missed a jumper with two seconds left, as Pitt fans who feared the game was over when West Virginia led 68-63 with 36 seconds remaining in regulation staged a jubilant celebration.

Pitt now is 6-0 against top-five teams at home since opening the Petersen Events Center in 2002.

The Mountaineers dominated Pitt 70-51 in Morgantown on Feb. 3 as their own fans pelted the floor with garbage and Pitt assistant Tom Herrion was struck under his right eye by a coin, but this game was incident free--and featured a different winner despite West Virginia's 51-44 edge in rebounding.

West Virginia, coming off an 82-75 loss to Villanova, took that 68-63 lead on Bryant's two free throws with 35 seconds remaining but, remarkably, the Panthers tied it only nine seconds later--just when their fans were starting to head to the exits, resigned to the Mountaineers' first season sweep in five years.

Travon Woodall hit a jumper four seconds later and Nasir Robinson stole the inbounds pass, leading to Gibbs' 3-pointer from a few feet in front of the Pitt bench with 26 seconds remaining.

A game that looked to be over was, in actuality, only getting started.

Gibbs' shot was similar to Ronald Ramon's desperation 3-pointer that beat West Virginia 55-54 two years ago in Pittsburgh. Bryant got off a shot off in the lane with a second left but missed, and the game was headed to overtime.

Then another, and another during a 3-hour game that didn't end until after midnight Eastern time and left some of the fans as weary and as emotionally drained as the players.