West Virginia has another opportunity to upset No. 4 Panthers
Published: Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 23:02
A Bob Huggins-coached team is one that prides itself on its ability to rebound.
Yet, the size and strength of Pitt seemingly always gets the best of the Mountaineers.
That was the case on Feb. 7, when the Panthers escaped the WVU Coliseum with a 71-66 win over West Virginia, after which Huggins said his team was "out-manned."
In a game in which WVU shot 84 percent from the free-throw line and over 50 percent from the field in the second half, the rebounding of the fourth-ranked Panthers proved to be the difference.
Pittsburgh (24-3, 12-2) outrebounded the Mountaineers (17-9, 8-6) 40-28, including earning 18 offensive boards which led to 16 second-chance points.
"We can't allow that to happen," said WVU senior center Cam Thoroughman. "You can't win any game – especially one against a top-five team in the country – whenever you allow a team to do what we allowed them to do here."
Pittsburgh enters tonight's game with the Mountaineers ranked fifth in the country in rebounding, averaging 40.9 rebounds per game.
"They destroyed us on the glass," Huggins said. "We're not going to beat anyone giving up 18 offensive rebounds. We have to do a better job of blocking out."
"Rebounding is the most important thing," said WVU point guard Joe Mazzulla. "But we need to defend the paint a lot better and force them to beat us with jumpshots."
That will be easier said than done this time around against Pittsburgh. West Virginia held the Panthers to just one 3-point bucket Feb. 7, but Pitt guard Ashton Gibbs will return to the lineup tonight.
Gibbs, the team's leading scorer who shoots 47 percent from 3-point range, missed the series' first game because of a knee injury.
The junior is coming off a 26-point performance in the team's loss to St. John's last week.
Mazzulla said the team will try to contain Gibbs and limit the production of his supporting cast.
"He's been the heart of their offense," Thoroughman said of Gibbs. "They're a way better team with him."
Four Panthers scored in double figures in the teams' Feb. 7 meeting, including Nasir Robinson's team-leading 15 points.
But even with the addition of Gibbs, the Panthers say they aren't taking the Mountaineers lightly.
"Just because we won the game, we don't want to become complacent and do what we did before," said Pitt sophomore Travon Woodall. "They are not going to come out the same. They are going to come out with a lot more fire because we beat them the first game.
"You do what you did the first game, but you try to do it better."