Wiz Khalifa kickstarts Pitt basketball at Blue and Gold Madness

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Wiz Khalifa kickstarts Pitt basketball at Blue and Gold Madness

First-year forward Karim Coulibaly (12) contests a layup by sophomore guard Xavier Johnson (1).

First-year forward Karim Coulibaly (12) contests a layup by sophomore guard Xavier Johnson (1).

Sarah Cutshall | Visual Editor

First-year forward Karim Coulibaly (12) contests a layup by sophomore guard Xavier Johnson (1).

Sarah Cutshall | Visual Editor

Sarah Cutshall | Visual Editor

First-year forward Karim Coulibaly (12) contests a layup by sophomore guard Xavier Johnson (1).

By Alex Lehmbeck, Staff Writer

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In a night filled with anticipation, basketball and celebrities, a performance from Pittsburgh’s own Wiz Khalifa capped off Pitt’s Blue and Gold Madness event to welcome the 2019-20 season.

And unlike a controversial Snoop Dogg performance at the Kansas basketball preseason event, Khalifa seemed to mostly cooperate with the University’s request for a clean, family-friendly show. While Kansas apologized for Snoop’s pole dancer and explicit lyrics, Khalifa played only clean versions of all his songs at his Pitt performance.

The event replaced the past few years’ “Courtside at the Cathedral,” a similar pep rally to open the new basketball season. Courtside at the Cathedral featured a dunk contest and a student half-court shootout on a temporary outdoor basketball court on Bigelow Boulevard. This year’s event, which took place at the Petersen Events Center, scrapped those competitions, instead adding team scrimmages and the famous rapper as entertainment.

The festivities began with the introduction of the women’s basketball team. After head coach Lance White briefly addressed the crowd of more than 4,000, the team participated in a 10-minute scrimmage against five scout-team players. The PA announcer continuously referred to the scout players as the “Generals,” referencing the exhibition-style basketball act of the Harlem Globetrotters and the Washington Generals. First-year guard Dayshanette Harris’ flashy handles and strong shooting from fifth-year senior Aysia Bugg led the Panthers to a 26-18 win.

After introducing the men’s team, Pittsburgh Steelers James Conner and Ryan Shazier surprised the crowd by serving as guest coaches for the 15-minute intrasquad scrimmage to follow and also debuting this year’s new Oakland Zoo T-shirts. Steelers wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster was also in attendance.

Both the Gold and Blue teams struggled on the offensive end to start the scrimmage, but each eventually found a rhythm. Graduate transfer Eric Hamilton turned heads as the scrimmage’s leading scorer, putting up 14 points for the night. Hamilton, as well as a few other players, actually wound up playing for both teams, switching jerseys during timeouts. Pitt also added eight points each from sophomores Trey McGowens and Xavier Johnson, as well as junior transfer Ryan Murphy.

Despite the slow offensive start, there were plenty of exciting plays that drew the crowd’s interest on Friday night. Murphy finished a saucy behind-the-back move with a pull-up jumper, Johnson hit a go-ahead stepback 3-pointer in the last minute and McGowens went for a nasty dunk on a fast break that rimmed out. Johnson’s shot, followed by Murphy’s own 3-pointer, helped give the Gold team a 31-28 victory.

After head coach Jeff Capel thanked the crowd for their support, it was time for Khalifa. The Pittsburgh native came on stage to his hometown anthem, “Black and Yellow.” He followed this up with certified classics including “We Dem Boyz” and “Young, Wild, and Free,” while also playing a few of his newer releases like “Never Lie.”

The fan base was clearly hyped to see the Pittsburgh rap icon, but many were disappointed to have to watch the show from afar. One section of the Zoo attempted to make a push onto the court to approach the stage, but Pitt’s security shut the effort down.

As he thanked the audience before exiting stage, Khalifa left the crowd with one last statement pushing the boundaries of an otherwise PG performance.

“Peace, love, smoke some weed,” he said.

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