Kissin’ cousins

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On Feb. 3, the University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball team moseyed down to Morgantown, W.Va. to play a hoop game. The Mountaineers had the Panthers jumping through hoops as WVU took the Pittsburgh squad out back to the woodshed. West Virginia smoked Pitt 70-51. In the rematch last Friday night between the two squads, Pitt escaped the woodshed then fed WVU a meal that reeked of food poisoning and proceeded to give the Mountaineers the key to the outhouse, minus the Charmin.

AubreyBruceBox

If the animosity between these two teams is as genuine as it appears then the accusations of selective inbreeding in southwestern Pa. as well as in W.Va. may be exaggerated, especially when referring to these two programs because there is no love lost between these kissin’ cousins.”

Why do Realtors always insist on, location, location, location? Well, because location counts. What a difference the Peterson Events Center and the Oakland Zoo makes for the Panthers. The grudge match continued at the “Pete” in a nationally televised game with Pitt coming out on top 98-95 in a triple overtime game that had more highs and lows than even Al Roker could forecast.

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins attempted in a very indirect way to kiss and kick Pitt simultaneously. “I’ve done this for 30 years, man, there isn’t much I haven’t seen. They didn’t fold, they [continued] to compete, but they couldn’t have won without a lot of help from us.’’

Last month the Panthers also came from five down defeating Louisville 82-77 when they were down by 68-63 with barely more than 30 seconds remaining in the game.

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BIG GAME—Pitt’s Brad Wanamaker passes the ball around West Virginia’s Da’Sean Butler during the Panthers 98-95 triple overtime win over the Mountaineers.

Panther Gilbert Brown said, “I never thought we’d have another game like that in the same season, but the Louisville game wasn’t on our minds. What was on our minds was what coach Dixon said at halftime. He said we were going to win the game. Only a minute to go, and coach still said we were going to win this game. That’s what helped us push through.’’

The Big Beast or should I say the Big East Conference is sorta, kinda like “Murder She Wrote.” By the time that the 16 teams in the conference finish beating up on each other; will they have anything left for the post-season?

There was another element to this game that was perplexing. Starting with the Ben Howland era and continuing through the Jamie Dixon tenure, defense has always been a Pitt trademark and often has been the antidote to anemic offensive performances. However, during regulation there were several easy put-backs by WVU. There were also many instances that Pitt was thoroughly out-boxed on their offensive boards by the “Mounties” as opposed to boxing out West Virginia. If you need proof of this, well here it is. With 11:32 remaining in the second half, Pitt only had two offensive rebounds and 15 defensive boards. WVU had 11 offensive boards and 18 defensive rebounds. That is a 12-rebound advantage representing a possible 24-point swing. Whatever, you do the math.

Junior center Gary McGhee is doing a far better job than anyone could have expected at this point in the season and although the Panthers may not admit it publicly, the departure of DeJuan Blair for the greener pastures of the NFL has definitely left just a few sun-scorched patches of grass for Pitt to graze on, especially “in the paint.”

The initial encounter on a basketball court between West Virginia and Pitt was in 1903. I am positive that if both Huggins and Dixon live to see the century mark, neither one of them will ever forget this contest.

Most likely West Virginia guard Darryl Bryant won’t forget this game any time soon either. “This is definitely one of the toughest losses I’ve had [and] this game probably put Pitt in the NCAAs.’’ I don’t know about the NCAAs but this game certainly put Pitt, WVU and this game into the “stuff of legends” category.

Pitt has a knack of “raining” on West Virginia’s parade. A few years ago, WVU and their football program, under the guidance of their now despised former coach Rich Rodriguez, was poised to play for the national championship but just as the Morgantown faithful had strategically placed all of the “couches” available at pre-determined locations and were set to give the “torching order” at the final gun of victory, former Pitt now NFL running back Lesean McCoy and the Pitt defense became arsonists, burning to cinders the hopes and dreams of an athletic program that was and still is desperate to prove that they belong. With this win the Pitt men’s basketball squad slapped WVU just as hard as their gridiron predecessors. Is there a possibility that WVU will win an NCAA basketball national title? Sure there is. That time will probably come when making moonshine ceases “in them thar hills.”

(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: abruce@newpittsburghcourier.com. Bruce can also be heard on The PressPass show on http://www.blogtalkradio.com on Thursdays from 6-7p.m.. This week’s topic: NCAA; White Collar Criminals. Call in: 347-826-9355.)

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