Men’s Basketball: Pitt sweeps Backyard Brawl

By Alex Oltmanns

It took the Pitt men’s basketball team three overtimes to defeat rival West Virginia last year… It took the Pitt men’s basketball team three overtimes to defeat rival West Virginia last year at the Petersen Events Center.

This time around, the Panthers made sure that the game didn’t go past regulation.

Behind strong games from Gilbert Brown and Nasir Robinson and impressive performances from bench players like Lamar Patterson, No. 4 Pitt blew past the Mountaineers 71-58.

West Virginia (17-10, 8-7 Big East) went into halftime with a 31-30 lead in a tightly officiated game that landed Robinson and Brown into foul trouble with two and three fouls, respectively.

But the Panthers (25-3, 13-2 Big East) used a 7-0 run, that included five points from Patterson, to start the second half and reclaim the lead — a lead they would never give back.

“We just adjusted at halftime,” Pitt senior Brad Wanamaker said in a post-game news conference. “We were letting them play a little too physical with us and we weren’t responding. In the second half, we settled down and adjusted to their defense.”

Pitt guards Ashton Gibbs and Wanamaker shot a combined 1-for-9 from the field in the first half, including 0-for-6 from 3-point range.

But Brown made up for it by going 4-for-5 from the field and making each of his three 3-pointers in the first half.

“I felt that we had a valiant effort in the first half and we just really weren’t making shots,” Brown said in the news conference. “Tonight I had my shot going and it definitely gave me an opening to get to the basket.”

But Gibbs and Wanamaker wouldn’t stay quiet for long. Both guards heated up in the second half.

Wanamaker finished with 11 points, while Gibbs pitched in with nine.

Meanwhile, with several of his teammates in foul trouble, Patterson provided the spark off the bench that Pitt needed.

“In practice I’ve been playing pretty well, so it felt good to go out on the court and put something together,” Patterson said in the news conference. “Watching the leaders on the court ahead of me, it made the process real smooth.”

His performance was even more important given the fact that forward Talib Zanna missed the game with a broken right thumb. Zanna is expected to miss three to six weeks.

“We found out this afternoon,” Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said in last night’s post-game news conference. “He’s going to have surgery tomorrow, so that’s when we’ll know [a timetable for his return].”

Scoring a career-high 11 points, Patterson contributed solid minutes and ended the game with an emphatic slam dunk.

The win marks the second time Pitt has beaten West Virginia this season, after its 71-66 victory in Morgantown, W.Va., on Feb. 7.

The Panthers struggled during that game, missing Gibbs with an MCL injury, but on Thursday night, the Mountaineers proved to be no match for Pitt in front of its raucous home crowd.

One of the lone bright spots for the Mountaineers in the loss was Casey Mitchell, who poured in 22 points.

The Panthers return to action Sunday at 2 p.m. at No. 16 Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center.