Pitt sports teams still in action over Thanksgiving break

By Kelly Flanigan

Here’s a breakdown of matchups happening over Thanksgiving… Here’s a breakdown of matchups happening over Thanksgiving Break.


At 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 25, the Panthers (5-5, 3-2 Big East) will face off against the West Virginia Mountaineers (7-3, 3-2 Big East) in the 104th Backyard Brawl. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN.

Head coach Todd Graham’s Panthers will enter the game off a bye week. They recently defeated the Louisville Cardinals 21-14 in their first road win of the season.

The importance of this year’s Backyard Brawl has increased in light of Cincinnati’s loss to Rutgers University on Saturday. Combined with West Virginia’s victory over Cincinnati, the upset means the race for the Big East title has opened up and a concrete picture of a front-runner has yet to surface.

Now three teams in the Big East have two losses: Pitt, West Virginia and Cincinnati. Cincinnati has defeated the Panthers, but West Virginia has defeated Cincinnati.

Essentially, whichever team loses the Backyard Brawl also relinquishes the hope of a Big East Championship.

Given the Panthers’ dismal road record, the heated rivalry and the hostile environment that Milan Puskar Stadium will pose to the Panthers, the team will need to remain focused on Friday evening.

Shutting down the superior throwing ability of Mountaineer quarterback Geno Smith will be at the top of the Panthers’ list of concerns. West Virginia does not run the ball much, and its  possession time is among the lowest in the conference. With the West Virginia defense on the field the majority of the game, Pitt will need to take care to limit its turnovers on the offensive end, and that starts with quarterback Tino Sunseri playing solidly.

Men’s Basketball:

The previously ninth-ranked Panthers (2-1) are likely to fall out of the rankings after losing 86-76 to unranked opponent Long Beach State last Wednesdeay. The loss marked the team’s first to a nonconference opponent at home in 58 games.

It came only days after Rider University gave the Panthers a scare at the Petersen Events Center in a game durng which Pitt pulled out a narrow victory 86-78.

On Tuesday, Nov. 22, the men’s team will take on the La Salle Explorers of Philadelphia. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center.

Seniors Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robinson have stepped up as the team’s major scoring threats so far this season, averaging 21.7 and 16.3 points, respectively. Gibbs’ partner in the backcourt, redshirt junior Travon Woodall, averages 19.7 points per game.

Coach Jamie Dixon continues to utilize a deep bench composed of nine players, several of whom are freshmen. The 3-point shooting of guard John Johnson and dominance on the boards of forward Khem Birch have made early impacts for the Panthers.

While Pitt football squares off against the Mountaineers on Friday evening, the men’s basketball team will take on the University of Pennsylvania at the Palestra in the Philly Hoop Group Classic. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

On Sunday, Nov. 27, the Panthers will play Robert Morris University at the Petersen Events Center at 5 p.m.

Note: Students can now obtain their tickets for Pitt’s matchup against city rival Duquesne University, to be held on Nov. 30, at the Consol Energy Center. After printing a copy of the online ticket, students must take the ticket to the Panthers Ticket Office located in the Petersen Events Center to obtain the actual ticket for admission to the game.

Women’s Basketball:

Head coach Agnus Berenato’s squad will look for its fourth straight win when it plays Drexel at the Petersen Events Center on Nov. 26 at 2 p.m.

The team (3-1) picked up its first win of the season against Saint Francis 78-50 last week.

As NCAA’s youngest Division I basketball team, the Panthers are led by redshirt sophomore Ashlee Anderson, who averaged only 5.4 points her freshman year but collected a career-high 29 points against Saint Francis.

Also contributing to the Panthers’ early efforts is freshman guard Brianna Kiesel, who had 17 points, nine rebounds and eight assists against Saint Francis.

Over the weekend, the team won contests against Loyola University (Md.) and Central Michigan by scores of 65-59 and 77-70, respectively.

Women’s Volleyball:

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the women’s volleyball team (18-13, 7-7 Big East) will participate in the Aztec Turkey Time Invitational on Nov. 25 and 26 in San Diego.

The team entered the Big East tournament last weekend riding a four game winning streak. Facing the top-seeded Louisville Cardinals (22-7) in the quarterfinals, the Panthers lost 3-1.

Their Nov. 25 match-up against Texas Christian University will take place at 7:30 p.m., and their contest the next day is against San Diego State at 10 p.m. These contests mark the end of the women’s volleyball season.