Amid debris, No. 6 WVirginia tops No. 22 Pitt
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP)—Several objects were thrown onto the court after Pittsburgh had nearly erased a double-digit deficit, prompting West Virginia coach Bob Huggins to grab the courtside microphone and tell the restless sellout crowd, “That’s stupid.”
His players took over from there.
Da’Sean Butler scored 18 points, Kevin Jones added 16 and the pair stepped up their games after Huggins’ speech midway through the second half, carrying No. 6 West Virginia to a 70-51 win over the 22nd-ranked Panthers on Wednesday night.
West Virginia (18-3, 7-2 Big East) used a steady diet of 3-pointers and fed off the energy of the third-largest home crowd in school history and the successful debut of suspended freshman Deniz Kilicli to earn its fifth straight win.
It marked the start of a tough four-game stretch in nine days for the Mountaineers that includes contests with St. John’s, No. 2 Villanova and at Pittsburgh on Feb. 12.
But some fans’ behavior cast a shadow over a solid win.
“It was uncalled for,” Butler said. “There is a time and a place for stuff like that, but one place is not the basketball court. Take that outside if you’re going to do it. I don’t know what the fans are trying to prove whether they’re tough or not but it’s not what we do. I would appreciate it if they would stop. It might cost us a game.”
Pittsburgh (16-6, 6-4) was outrebounded 45-31, shot an abysmal 30 percent from the field, made just six field goals after halftime and was held to its second-lowest scoring total of the season.
Butler’s 3-pointer put West Virginia ahead by double digits 4 minutes after halftime before Pittsburgh mounted a comeback.
Little-used freshman J.J. Richardson scored five points in the span of a minute and Pittsburgh pulled within 43-41 with 12:51 left. His previous season high was two points.
The Panthers got no closer and West Virginia steadily pulled away.
“They deserved to win,” Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. “It was 43-41 and we didn’t get a rebound after that and that’s where we got beat.”
Huggins grabbed a microphone and addressed the fans a short time after objects were thrown on the court with 12:08 left, telling the crowd, “don’t throw anything on the floor. That’s stupid.”
As the crowd applauded him, Huggins then asked if someone did it again, “point him out so we can throw him out of here.”
Someone didn’t listen.
With 5:14 left, as the officials were reviewing on the courtside TV a scuffle under the basket involving Pitt’s Gary McGhee and two West Virginia players, Pittsburgh assistant coach Tom Herrion was hit with what appeared to be a coin under his right eye. Huggins could be seen asking Herrion, who had a visible bruise under the eye, about it after the game.
“I think the fans throwing stuff out on the court was wrong,” Huggins said afterward. “You want them to be enthusiastic and they’ve been terrific. I love them to death, but whoever threw things on the floor is dumb. You just can’t do that.”
West Virginia’s students were sent several e-mails by a university official in recent weeks over their behavior at games. They were asked to tone down their language after profanities were heard on national TV in a Jan. 23 win over Ohio State. Against Louisville last Saturday, fans chanted the name of a woman that Cardinals coach Rick Pitino admitted having sex with outside his marriage.
“We knew they had a rowdy crowd,” Pittsburgh’s Jermaine Dixon said. “But the best part is that we get to play them up at our place in a couple days.”
After Pittsburgh nearly pulled even and the objects started flying, West Virginia went on a 15-4 run. Butler, Jones and Darryl Bryant hit 3-pointers and the Mountaineers pulled ahead 56-43 with 6:31 remaining. Jones scored 15 of his 16 points in the final 12 minutes.
The Mountaineers made 5 of 10 shots from beyond the arc after halftime and clinched their second straight win over the Panthers by going 10 of 10 from the free-throw line in the final five minutes.
Devin Ebanks had 16 rebounds for West Virginia and Kilicli provided a spark in his first action of the season after sitting out an NCAA-imposed 20 games for playing on a team in his native Turkey that included a professional player.
The 6-foot-9 Kilicli went 3 of 3 from the field and scored seven points in 4 minutes in the first half. The capacity crowd gave him a standing ovation when he entered the game and was mobbed by his teammates when he came out a few minutes later. He finished with nine points in 7 minutes.
“We needed that boost especially from the bench,” Butler said before poking some fun at his teammates. “I think that’s the most points we’ve gotten from the bench all year—combined.”
Dixon returned from an injury to lead Pittsburgh with 13 points. Ashton Gibbs added 11 points but second-leading scorer Brad Wanamaker was held scoreless on 0-of-4 shooting.
The Panthers have dropped four of five conference games after starting 5-0 in the league and reaching the Top 10.