Slumping West Virginia looks to earn first road win in Backyard Brawl since 2005
Published: Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Updated: Thursday, February 16, 2012 02:02
The West Virginia men's basketball team hasn't won at the Petersen Events Center since 2005 – and it was the only time the Mountaineers have ever won there.
But, when West Virginia travels to Pitt tonight for the Backyard Brawl, a win might be necessary to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive.
Losers of five of six, West Virginia will be going up against a Pittsburgh team that is just 1-2 since beating the Mountaineers two weeks ago in Morgantown.
It beat Villanova before losing to South Florida and Seton Hall.
With the news of West Virginia defecting to the Big 12, there is a possibility it could be the last matchup between the two schools.
"I've got a lot of emotions, but that's not one of them at this point in time," said WVU head coach Bob Huggins. "I don't think about those things. We've got to prepare so we can go up there and try to win a game. I haven't thought about that. Honestly, I'd be kind of shocked. We've been playing them since 1904. We're all looking for good nonconference games."
Pittsburgh is led by Ashton Gibbs, who is scoring 16.7 points per game. Tray Woodall, who scored 24 points against the Mountaineers on Jan. 30, is averaging 12.9 points per game to go along with 6.5 assists.
Nasir Robinson leads the Panthers with 6.5 rebounds and 11.5 points per game.
"(Woodall) played great against us," Huggins said. "He played about as well as any point guard has played against us.
"He's a great distributor. When you get open and you know you're going to get the ball, you have the tendency to work a whole lot harder to get open."
The Mountaineers continue to be led by Big East Player of the Year candidate Kevin Jones, who leads the team scoring 20.6 points and collecting 11.2 rebounds per game.
"I think KJ, clearly, has been the best player in the league. When you look at the history of the Big East – and there's only ever been two people that led the league in both scoring and rebounding for a season – that says volumes," Huggins said.
Fellow senior Truck Bryant, whose success has been streaky this season, is scoring 16.8 points per game. Junior Deniz Kilicli is scoring 11.5 points per game and is second on the team with 5.5 rebounds.
The Mountaineers' last four losses have come by a combined total of 15 points. Against No. 23 Louisville Saturday, West Virginia led through to the final minutes, until the Cardinals capitalized on sloppy WVU play down the stretch.
Despite the losing streak, however, Huggins still thinks this year's team could be successful.
"We're very, very close to being a good basketball team," Huggins said. "Obviously, there have been some things that happened that we'd like to get back, but you don't get to do that. You don't get any
mulligans. We've got to finish games."
Tipoff is scheduled for 9 p.m.