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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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First-year guard Aaryn Battle (1) dribbles the ball during Thursday evening’s game against Wake Forest in the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt women’s basketball falls back into their old habits, fall to Wake Forest 65-50
By Sara Meyer, Staff Writer • 9:10 am

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First-year guard Aaryn Battle (1) dribbles the ball during Thursday evening’s game against Wake Forest in the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt women’s basketball falls back into their old habits, fall to Wake Forest 65-50
By Sara Meyer, Staff Writer • 9:10 am

Preview | Pitt men’s basketball looks to get back on track against West Virginia in Backyard Brawl

Senior+forward+Blake+Hinson+%282%29+screams+after+hitting+a+3-pointer+during+this+Sunday+afternoons+game+against+Clemson+in+the+Petesen+Events+Center.+
Ethan Shulman | Visual Editor
Senior forward Blake Hinson (2) screams after hitting a 3-pointer during this Sunday afternoon’s game against Clemson in the Petesen Events Center.

Pitt men’s basketball (5-3, 0-1 ACC) needs a morale booster heading into its game against West Virginia (3-4, 0-0 Big 12) on Wednesday in this year’s edition of the Backyard Brawl. The Panthers are coming off of a loss against Clemson, where their comeback efforts fell just short. But a win against one of their biggest rivals would help turn their fortunes around. 

The two sides faced off against one another in Pittsburgh last season, as the Mountaineers came away with an 81-56 victory. Pitt has not defeated West Virginia since 2012 and is on a six-game losing streak in the matchup, but this season may present their best chance for a win in several years. 

Pitt’s early-season momentum has slowly faded, as the team hasn’t found its footing against stiffer competition quite yet. The Panthers have lost three games against Power Six opponents, largely a result of a string of inefficient offensive performances outside of senior forward Blake Hinson. 

On the other side, West Virginia has endured a tumultuous stretch dating back to its first-round exit in last year’s NCAA tournament. The Mountaineers brought in one of the nation’s leading transfer classes in the offseason, though it was all for nothing, as long-time head coach Bob Huggins resigned in June following an arrest for driving under the influence. He later claimed the school forced his departure and believed he deserved the job back, but ultimately wasn’t reinstated. 

West Virginia later named Josh Eilert, a former assistant under Huggins, as its interim head coach in a hire aimed at promoting continuity and keeping the new-look roster intact. The move wasn’t foolproof, however, as the Mountaineers saw two primary contributors, graduate student forward Tre Mitchell and Joe Toussaint, transfer elsewhere following the news. 

West Virginia’s issues trickled down to its incoming class as well. Senior guard Kerr Kriisa, an Arizona transfer who averaged 9.9 points and 5.1 assists last season, was suspended for nine games after receiving impermissible benefits during his time with the Wildcats and will miss Wednesday’s contest. Fifth-year guard RaeQuan Battle, who put up 17.7 points per game with Montana State last season, never received a waiver for immediate eligibility from the NCAA and will sit out the entire season. 

The Mountaineers are currently operating with a shortened rotation as a result. Fifth-year forward Quinn Slazinski is West Virginia’s leading scorer with 16.7 points per game. Fifth-year center Jesse Edwards, whom Pitt is familiar with from his days at Syracuse, is averaging a double-double with 15.7 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. Junior guard Kobe Johnson is the only other player on the roster averaging over seven points a game

West Virginia, coming off of a loss against St. John’s last Friday, has struggled mightily on the offensive side of the ball. They currently rank last in the Big 12 for points scored, field-goal percentage, three-point percentage and assists

The Mountaineers’ defense is a different story, however. They are limiting opponents to 64.6 points per game and 39.8% shooting from the field. West Virginia’s stout rim protection, with 4.3 blocks per game and rebounding prowess on 39.4 boards per game, are part of that equation as well. 

The Panthers’ lack of production from their bench is a major concern and may hold them back moving forward. The unit did not score a single point and finished 0 of 7 from the field against Clemson, continuing a worrying trend as the bench was also out-scored in Pitt’s two other losses against Florida and Missouri. The Panthers’ shortage of depth on offense is one of the team’s biggest question marks, and it remains unclear if there is a solution readily available. 

Pitt’s rebounding is a necessary component for success, especially against the current iteration of the Mountaineers. The Panthers lead the ACC in the stat by a wide margin, but that’s largely a product of their run against mid-majors in the early part of the schedule. They were out-rebounded 36 to 33 against Missouri last week before dropping the battle on the boards 40 to 33 to Clemson. With Pitt’s margin for error slowly closing, it cannot let West Virginia take advantage of it on the boards. 

The Panthers are staring down a prime opportunity for a bounce-back win against a Mountaineers team that is in a state of disarray. They will have their work cut out for them in a tough environment on the road against their bitter rivals, but Pitt would greatly benefit from getting back on track with a complete performance on Wednesday.

About the Contributor
Jack Markowski, Senior Staff Writer