MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP)—With teammate Levon Kendall in foul trouble, Pittsburgh’s Sam Young stepped up and played another stellar game against West Virginia.
Young scored a career-high 21 points to lead No. 7 Pittsburgh to a 60-47 win over West Virginia on Wednesday night to hand the Mountaineers their first home loss of the season.
“He’s been practicing well and you get what you earn. He deserved success today,” said Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon. “He’s getting better and better.”
Young, a sophomore backup forward who entered the game averaging 5 points, has now scored in double figures in all four meetings with West Virginia.
More importantly for the first-place Panthers (21-3, 9-1 Big East), Young has hit double figures in three straight games after being shut out in the previous four.
“He’s really a great player and maybe he’s not been able to show it much this year because Levon is so vital to our offense and our defense,” Pittsburgh’s Aaron Gray said.
Pittsburgh showed no signs of rust from a nine-day layoff and had no trouble scoring inside on the Mountaineers (18-5, 7-4), who were held to a season-low for points. West Virginia’s previous low was 50 in a season-opening win over Mount St. Mary’s.
West Virginia fell behind by as many as 17 midway through the second half and was held to just two points over the final 4:46.
“We have to play at a higher level to beat them,” said West Virginia coach John Beilein. “They are playing at the highest level of anybody in the country. Sam Young was incredible tonight.”
Gray added 14 points for Pittsburgh, which scored 34 points in the paint and shot 52 percent (24-of-46) from the floor.
Freshman Da’Sean Butler led West Virginia with 14 points and Frank Young added 12.
After Frank Young hit a 3-pointer and a fadeaway jumper to bring West Virginia to 31-24 with 16:20 left in the game, Sam Young took over. He scored eight points, six from inside, during a 12-2 run that gave the Panthers their largest lead, 43-26, with 10:32 remaining.
West Virginia finally came to life with a 12-0 run that cut the deficit to 49-45 with 4:46 left. Joe Alexander blocked two Pittsburgh shots during the run, but missed an open layup that would have closed the gap to two.
Instead, Sam Young hit a 3-pointer to put Pittsburgh ahead 52-45 with 3:55 left and the Panthers were never threatened again.
“He is a great athlete. We were not surprised,” Frank Young said. “He has done that in the past and played pretty well against us last year. We have to try and key on him more in the future. When Kendall gets in foul trouble, they bring him in and he does the job.”
West Virginia was without injured backup guards Joe Mazzulla and Devan Bawinkel and didn’t look like a team in search of a third straight NCAA tournament berth. The Mountaineers, who had been averaging 71 points at home this season, shot 32.7 percent (16-of-49) from the floor.
“What really won this game was our defense,” Gray said. “We just did a great job of helping each other out.”
West Virginia had won the last two meetings between the teams in Morgantown, but the Mountaineers no longer have the outside shooting of Kevin Pittsnogle and Mike Gansey.
Only one starter, Frank Young, is back from last year’s team. He leads the Mountaineers in scoring this season but went scoreless in the first half against Pittsburgh. West Virginia missed 12 of its first 15 shots and trailed 27-17 at halftime.
“You’re not going to get many open shots against Pitt. I don’t care who you are,” Beilein said.
It marked the start of a tough three-game stretch for the Mountaineers, who play No. 2 UCLA at home on Saturday, then at No. 22 Georgetown on Monday.
The win was the fourth straight for Pittsburgh, which now enters a three-game homestand against Providence, Louisville and a non-conference game with Washington.