This was the game of the year to date, no question. Nine days after Pitt lost by 19 in Morgantown, the Panthers got revenge - the catch being it took 55 minutes to do it. Pittsburgh 98, West Virginia 95 in not one, not two, three overtimes.
Yeah, yeah: Syracuse and UConn remain unimpressed. Har har.
All the talk of "Rivalry Week" at ESPN, and the best matchup gets buried amid the Opening Ceremony. A shame. Something tells me The Juggernaut didn't score a terrific rating on last night's game, despite how enthralling the whole thing was.
In case you missed all the drama at the Peterson Events Center, know this: West Virginia led by seven with less than 50 seconds to go in regulation.
For all of the Mountaineers fans who want to complain about the missed call (as of the time of this post there is no YouTube video evidence available), let me just say: karma. Hucking objects at Pitt assistant coaches came back to bite you. The hoop gods always have the last say.
For those of you who haven't seen the highlights yet, basically, Travon Woodall sank a jumper to cut the Mountaineers' lead to 68-65. Then Nasir Robinson poked the ball free on the inbounds pass, Brad Wanamaker tried to save the loose orange but had his toes tickle the out-of-bounds line as he passed to a teammate.
Only problem: The official missed the call. So the ball winds up in Ashton Gibbs' hands. Gibbs takes a step to the left and hits a 3 with 16.5 remaining to tie the game at 68. Pittsburgh outscored WVU 9-2 final 43 seconds. The 'Eers went 2 for 5 at the foul line and 0 for 1 from the floor, while Pitt was 3 for 3 from the floor.
So, here's how the next 15 minutes played out. I'll whittle it down to the crucial stuff.
First overtime: Gibbs, one of the most reliable men in the country at the charity stripe, missed a free throw to seal a win. One the loose ball, Pittsburgh allows Darryl Bryant to dribble up the floor uncontested. He hits a 3 to tie it at 78 and send us to more free basketball.
Second overtime: Pittsburgh again has a three-point lead. But that's erased when Da'Sean Butler is fouled by Gary McGhee in the act of shooting a 3. Butler sank three straight shots. He's been clutch all year for Bob Huggins. On the next trip down the floor, Wanamaker couldn't hit a tough runner, McGhee missed a put-back and Woodall let fly a fall-away rainbow shot that dropped nothing-but-net. Pitt fans went crazy. Again, only problem: He didn't release it in time. Yes: shades of Eric Devendorf.
Third overtime: West Virginia also allowed Pitt to grab about 84 rebounds (alert: mild exaggeration) in the final five minutes. After a few lead changes, Gilbert Brown hits two free throws with 25 seconds to go to give Pitt a 96-95 lead. On WVU's next possession, Devan Ebanks misses a fadeaway shot that he'll miss with great regularity at the next level. Gibbs gets fouled on the ensuing rebound and hits two free throws to give the Panthers a three-point lead. The game was over after Bryant was overeager in trying to tie the game that he actually stepped in too close and badly missed a two-point shot - when WVU needed a 3.
The win locks up a tournament bid for Pittsburgh. West Virginia can say goodbye to dreams of getting a 2-seed. A quality game that remained in doubt through each overtime. The Mountaineers had it won in regulation but let it get away. They stopped playing with passion, really. Officiating was again a problem, but I don't think it marred this one.
Who's to say West Virginia doesn't make its free throws if Woodall is correctly called out of bounds? There was plenty of time left for Pitt to make a run for overtime, regardless. And here I thought it was going to be an a low-key weekend.
- West Virginia