PITTSBURGH — The story in the first half of No. 18 West Virginia's 69-60 nonconference victory over Pittsburgh was the Mountaineers' sharp play and the strong visiting fan following at the Petersen Events Center.
The story of the second half, however, was much different. It was about how Pitt rallied within 2 points. It was about how WVU was whistled for 12 fouls in the span and 25 overall. It was about how that Mountaineer contingent was effectively taken out of the game.
West Virginia takes home bragging rights in the Backyard Brawl! Check out the sights in the Mountaineer Minute. pic.twitter.com/hjC8d9eAAP— WVU Basketball (@WVUhoops) December 10, 2017
Yet it was also how West Virginia ultimately prevailed over its Atlantic Coast Conference rival before 7,748 in the revival of the "Backyard Brawl" after a four-year hiatus.
"It came down to the end," said WVU guard James "Beetle" Bolden. "We made a few plays to pull it out."
It was anything but easy, though. Heading into the second half with a commanding 45-27 lead, Pitt's Khameron Davis and the game officials set the tempo early. Davis hit a 3-point attempt and moments later Mountaineer big man Sagaba Konate picked up his third foul and fellow forward Wesley Harris was hit with his third and fourth.
After Pitt outscored West Virginia 12-6, Bolden seemed set to stem the tide by sinking a trey, but then Mountaineer All-America candidate Jevon Carter was tagged with his fourth foul with 13:55 remaining. Then at the 11:20 mark, Carter's backcourt mate, Dax Miles, joined the guard and Harris with four fouls.
Highlights from tonight's 69-60 victory at Pitt in the Backyard Brawl. pic.twitter.com/oaFc6L2bLb— WVU Basketball (@WVUhoops) December 10, 2017
All hit the bench and it seemed to spur the hosts. WVU coach Bob Huggins used a 1-3-1 defense to try and help the situation, but at 9:13, with Pitt down just 56-53, he'd had enough. He waved Carter and Miles back in.
That seemed to lift WVU. Lamont West went inside for a score. And after Pitt came out of a timeout and missed an alley-oop attempt, Bolden canned a trey to provide separation at 61-53.
"I couldn't be more proud of my team and its effort," said Pitt coach Kevin Stallings, whose team dropped to 5-5. "A lesser team would have put their heads down after the first half."
"I didn't think we were very good," said WVU's Huggins. "We got in foul trouble and then we got tentative and we didn't guard. We got the whistle blown and were tentative. We missed easy shots. We didn't rebound the ball. We just kind of stood around."
It was the opposite of the first half. With the partisan crowd established early -- minus the Pitt student section -- WVU started the game seemingly relaxed. West hit a pair of treys and a Panther travel gave the Mountaineers a quick 6-0 lead.
A Mountaineer highlight came a bit later when Carter blew a fast break layup, but hustled back to the other baseline and knocked the ball out of Jared Wilson-Frame's hands and off his body out of bounds.
West Virginia kept the heat on -- although mixing in that 1-3-1 with its press -- and limited Pitt's scoring mostly to the free-throw line. The Mountaineers were whistled for 13 personal fouls to the Panthers' eight and the hosts converted 15 of 21 attempts from the stripe. Otherwise, though, Pitt connected on just 5 of 22 field goal attempts (22.7 percent), while WVU shot 11 more times and converted 48.5 percent, including 8 of 16 from beyond the 3-point line. West Virginia forced 10 turnovers in the half and won the battle of the paint 12-6.
In the end, though, Pitt had but 14 turnovers. Heading into the game, WVU opponents were averaging 21.3.
"If you'd have told me I could sign up for 14 turnovers tonight," Stallings said, "I'd have taken it."
Carter led WVU with 19 points in 34 minutes of play, while Miles had 15, West 13 and Bolden 10. Pitt outrebounded the Mountaineers 38-32, but Konate was limited to 26 minutes of play.
Harris fouled out and Konate, Carter and Miles finished with four fouls apiece.
"We can't control that," said Miles. "We just have to focus on what we can focus on."
Bolden was able to smile about the Mountaineer fan showing.
"It was great," said the guard. "Our fans are the best in the nation. To over-crowd their crowd was awesome."
WVU will have this week off until an exhibition on Dec. 16 against Wheeling Jesuit.
This article is written by Mitch Vingle from The Charleston Gazette, W.Va. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.