WVU was up 7 pts with about 49 seconds left to go on a young Pitt team. Fans were starting to head to the exits at the Peterson Events Center. West Virginia was going to sweep the Panthers, the last thing anyone at Pitt wanted for the Backyard Brawl. The inexperience of the team sans Blair, Fields, and Young was starting to show. The Oakland Zoo was disappointed they couldn’t take down another top 5 team, especially WVU, at home. An Ashton Gibbs jumper though brought the game back into focus for the Panthers. Jamie Dixon called a time-out, and told his team “We’re going to win this game”, and laid out a plan for them to do that. How could they though? West Virginia had been in control the whole game. Travon Woodall, a redshirt freshman, made both of a set of free throws. With 32 seconds left, Tray hit a jumper to bring the game to 68-65 WVU. The crowd could smell this game was not over all of a sudden. 30 seconds left, they just need a stop. WVU inbounded the ball to Darryl Bryant, who had the ball stripped from him by Nasir Robinson. The ball was tumbling away out of bounds, until Brad Wannamaker did a pirouette on the edge of the line, one-handing the ball to Tray at the top of the key. Swing to Ashton Gibbs in front of the Panthers bench. He pulls up. The entire building is silent. Boom. Shot goes in. The building erupts. Tie game. WVU misses their chance to put the game away. We go to OT. What happened next can only be described as a battle. Pitt scored 10 pts in each of the 3 overtimes. West Virginia scored 10, 10, and 7. Pitt wins the game, capping off the longest game of the Brawl between Pitt and WVU ever. One of the best games ever at the Peterson Events Center.
That’s the beauty of the Backyard Brawl. It didn’t matter that West Virginia had won by 19 a few weeks earlier. Or that the Mountaineers were the #4 team in the country (and a future Final Four team). It was the idea that they came into our house, and simply could not take a win away from Pitt and the Zoo. It was just another example of that Pitt team refusing to give up eve when the game seemed lost. Even when fans had given up, and were heading to the exits, the Panthers stole the game back.
You know the beautiful part? That team is still here, largely the same guys with a few new faces. Gibbs is still shooting lights out. Gary is still making the paint his house on the defensive end. Nasir still somehow just getting scrappy points around the hoop, while Brad plays the best all around game of just about anyone in the country. And Gil? I still believe he’s got the show-stopper in him. He steps up for the big games, and I think he’s going to break out of the little rut he’s in. Guys like Dante, Travon, Lamar, Talib, an JJ coming off the bench make a huge impact. This team is angry with the way they played on Saturday to St. John’s, and now even more pissed off because they feel they aren’t getting respect. We talked about it on the Panther Panel yesterday, Pitt has never gotten the respect it deserves when compared to programs like Duke, Kansas, and North Carolina. I think this is the year Pitt can change that. Stomping WVU is just one more step to that road in April. I have a feeling its going to be a fun ride..