Pitt basketball upsets WVU

By Greg Trietley

The Pitt men’s basketball team knew it missed Travon Woodall’s playmaking ability. But the… The Pitt men’s basketball team knew it missed Travon Woodall’s playmaking ability. But the Panthers never expected that the Mountaineers would have to double-team him.

The point guard led the Panthers to a 72-66 win over the Mountaineers Monday night at the West Virginia University Coliseum.

West Virgina’s Kevin Jones finished with a double-double of 21 points and 13 rebounds for West Virginia, but Woodall scored 24 points in his fourth game back from abdominal and groin injuries.

“I’m a creative point guard first, but at the same time I’m a leader. And if my team needs me to step up and score some baskets, I try to do that for them,” Woodall said. “A lot of guys, they’re not keying on me. They’re expecting me to create for my team, but I was feeling aggressive.”

Woodall’s stellar play forced the Mountaineers to double him at times in the second half, opening up Ashton Gibbs on the perimeter and Pitt’s forwards in the paint.

“When he’s got it going like that, it’s a plus,” forward Nasir Robinson said. “We know he can pass the ball, but when he’s passing and scoring and hustling and playing defense, that’s a plus.”

Jones, Jabarie Hinds, Deniz Kilicli and Darryl Bryant all finished with double-digit points for the Mountaineers, but the Panthers (14-9, 3-7 Big East) kept West Virginia’s young bench off the scoreboard all night. The rest of the team made two baskets.

West Virginia (15-8, 5-5 Big East) has lost three straight games.

“Personally, I want to punch some stuff right now,” Kilicli said after the game. “That’s how I feel. I don’t want to do anything. I don’t want to talk to anybody. It’s really frustrating what’s going on right now.”

West Virginia owned the glass at both ends early, as Kilicli and Jones pulled down rebounds over Pitt’s defense to finish second-chance baskets. The Mountaineers opened up a 17-9 lead while the Panthers had a 5:53 scoreless span.

“We went to a little bit different offense: more patient, more aware of what we’re trying to do,” Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said. “[We] withstood their run early, and that was really a big point of emphasis and something I was very proud of. We talked about over-pressuring and over-playing and didn’t handle it great early. But once we figured what we wanted to do, we took care of the ball the rest of the game.”

Kilicli and Jones still had their way down low, though, and West Virginia finished with a slight edge on the glass, 32-31.

“They did exactly what we were afraid they might do,” Dixon said. “They hurt us inside. They pounded it inside, and they ran a lot of great sets.”

With West Virginia stifling Pitt’s half-court offense, Gibbs finally broke the scoreless streak with a fast-break layup with 8:12 left before intermission. As poorly as the Panthers shot early, the Mountaineers had a worse streak — they went more than seven minutes without a field goal.

“We talked on defense,” Robinson said. “We made them shoot tough shots.”

In one stretch in the sloppy first half, Woodall tossed an errant cross-court pass into the front row, only to see Kevin Noreen do the same at the other end on the next possession.

But Pitt — more specifically, Woodall — warmed up on offense and pulled even at 21 on a basket by Woodall with 4:26 left in the first half. The junior point guard scored 13 of the Panthers’ final 19 points in the first half, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“Coach Dixon knew I wanted the ball,” Woodall said. “He called the play that we call ‘flat.” I could have pushed it to try to get a transition basket, but he told me to slow down and call ‘flat,’ and he let me go out there and make a play.”

Woodall had 16 points at halftime.

“He did everything, everything,” Bryant said after the game. “He found his teammates. He scored the ball. He scored 16 points in the first half. I don’t think he’s ever scored 16 points on us, period.”

Pitt led at halftime 33-29, and Woodall wasn’t done. He opened up the second half with a layup, extending the Panthers’ lead to six.

Two minutes later, Bryant fouled center Dante Taylor as he converted a layup, and West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins was given a technical foul for arguing the call. The technical incited Mountaineer fans, who threw two rally towels and other objects on the court during the delay.

Huggins claimed that he wasn’t arguing the ball, but yelling at guard Truck Bryant.

But Taylor converted the and-one free throw, and Pitt opened up a double-digit lead, 41-31, with 17:40 remaining. West Virginia, though, fed Jones and Kilicli inside and attacked the rim to pull back within three with Woodall on the bench.

As soon as Woodall re-entered the game with 10:30 to play, Lamar Patterson found Gibbs for a crowd-quieting layup to give Pitt a 50-45 advantage.

Gibbs finished with 15 points.

West Virginia threatened, but could never actually take the lead going down the stretch. With Woodall doubled, strong play from Gibbs, Taylor and Patterson countered the veteran trio of Jones, Kilicli and Bryant, and Pitt left Morgantown with the win.

“Some of our motion and patience was a big part of that,” Dixon said. “That’s something that’s developing. It’s something we didn’t have to the level that we needed without [Woodall].”

Woodall healthy and playing makes the rest of the Panthers comfortable, Dixon said.

“A point guard is important. It allows guys to play other spots. It gets guys less minutes,” he said.

“I don’t feel guys are out there playing too many minutes. I don’t feel like they’re playing out of position. We’re feeling more comfortable. We’re getting better.”