Women’s Basketball: Panthers ready for Backyard Brawl

By Roger Sepich

When Pittsburgh and West Virginia play, regardless of the sport, fans and players alike know… When Pittsburgh and West Virginia play, regardless of the sport, fans and players alike know that it isn’t just another game.

And this Saturday at 4 p.m. in Morgantown, it’s the ladies’ turn to brawl as head coach Agnus Berenato leads the Pitt women’s basketball team into the first of two meetings with the Mountaineers this season.

“We’re looking forward to playing in the Backyard Brawl,” Berenato said. “It always comes down to literally a brawl whether it’s women’s basketball, football, men’s basketball or tiddlywinks.”

Senior forward Shayla Scott agreed.“We’re really excited for the game,” Scott said. “There’s bragging rights on the line and it’s just fun to talk about.”

The Panthers (10-11, 2-6 Big East) are coming off their second conference win of the season, a 79-48 triumph over Cincinnati, which ended a four-game losing streak. A win Saturday would get Pitt back to the .500 mark for the season.

“We definitely were struggling a little bit,” Scott said. “The win was nice to help us get our confidence back before this tough test Saturday.”

The Mountaineers (20-3, 6-3 Big East) are ranked No. 14 and ended a two-game losing streak with a 59-45 win over Providence on Tuesday night.

“This is a big game for us,” West Virginia head coach Mike Carey said in a teleconference. “It’s always a great game against Pitt no matter what the records are.”

West Virginia is led by one of the premier guards in the Big East, senior Liz Repella, who averages 13.8 points per game. Senior forward Madina Ali puts up 13.2 points per game, but she has played fewer minutes recently with a stress fracture in her left leg.

No matter who is on the court for the Mountaineers, the Panthers know playing in West Virginia is always going to be a tough test.

“I think it’s the toughest place for us to play,” Berenato said. “There’s not a lot of love lost between Pittsburghers and West Virginians.”

Pitt guard Jania Sims, who recently scored her 1,000th career point, said the crowd at West Virginia makes the game difficult.

“They have a great atmosphere and a great team so it’s going to be a tough game,” Sims said. “It’s going to be a physical game.”

The Mountaineers, who are undefeated at home this season, won both of the teams’ meetings last year.