WVU basketball: Freefall continues for Mountaineers
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia lost again Monday night and has its first three-game losing streak since 2006.
The Mountaineers will have two days off to try to fix what has gone wrong after a 72-66 loss to Pitt before 13,032 at the Coliseum.
"They're probably as tired of me as I am of them," said Coach Bob Huggins, whose WVU teams had not lost three straight since his arrival in 2007.
"Two days off is probably a good idea."
The Mountaineers (15-8, 5-5 Big East) started 7-for-11 from the floor and led 17-9 when freshman Aaron Brown made a 3-pointer.
"The first 11 minutes, we were great," forward Deniz Kilicli said.
The rest of the game was not.
The Panthers (14-9, 3-7) held WVU without a basket for the next 7:20 and outscored the Mountaineers 32-20 the rest of the half.
WVU was 3-for-11 after Brown's basket and turned the ball over five times - half of the game's total.
"They thought they were going to lose the game the first five minutes," freshman Gary Browne said.
"Then we stopped playing and they started making easy baskets and they thought they could beat us."
Pitt wasn't much more effective early and went 5:53 without any points, but got going when Brown put on a brief dribbling exhibition in the corner before throwing the ball away for a Pitt layup.
The Panthers had the lead 26-23 when Travon Woodall made a 3 and then roared into halftime up 39-33 when Woodall hit again at the buzzer.
The lead was 10 points early in the second half after a bizarre sequence when Huggins got a technical foul for yelling at his own player.
The Mountaineers had one possession in the second half where they could have tied the score or taken the lead and were at least four points behind the final 5:35.
"We haven't played with any
consistency all year," Huggins said. "We get on a run, we're passing the ball and playing pretty good and some guy will decide that he has to show everyone that he can't dribble. We'll do a pretty good job rebounding and all of a sudden we will stand and the ball will bounce and they will grab it and put it in and we're just standing there."
Pitt, which has won three in a row after eight straight losses and an 0-7 start to conference play, has won four in a row in the series.
The Panthers are 10-3 in the past 13 games of the Backyard Brawl and have a pair of four-game winning streaks.
"As a coach, you talk about what you can become and what you want to be and this is an example of a team that continued to battle and do the work," Pitt Coach Jamie Dixon said.
Woodall, in his fourth game back after missing five in row and 11 of 12, had 24 points. Pitt was 5-7 without Woodall and is 3-1 since he returned.
"Destroyed us," Huggins said. "Absolutely destroyed us."
A junior point guard averaging 10.9 points, Woodall scored 16 in the first half. He had four points Saturday against Georgetown and just 17 in the two games before that. He made up for the ineffectiveness of Ashton Gibbs, the team's leading scorer (16.5), who needed seven free throws to get 15 points.
"We were more focused on Gibbs than Woodall," Browne said.
Kevin Jones led WVU with 21 points and 13 rebounds, his 15th double-double and his eighth straight game with at least 20 points. Truck Bryant added 12 points and seven assists, but he was 2-for-7 from 3-point range and wasn't credited with a 2-point attempt. He tried just one, but it didn't count because he was fouled. He also cost his team a point, though it was out of his control.
Bryant goofed up a defensive rotation in the second half and fouled Dante Taylor on his layup. Huggins said he was yelling across the floor at Bryant when official Sean Corbin called a technical on Huggins.
"I've had in my career, obviously, a bunch of technicals, but I've never had one for yelling at a player for not making a rotation," Huggins said. "I was frustrated because I've got a four-year guy who doesn't make a rotation.
"As much and as hard as we work and as good as we've been defensively - which he was a part of - not making a rotation, I was yelling at him and this guy Ts me up from across the court. And I'm yelling at Truck. (Corbin) couldn't have even thought I was yelling at him. He was not even in my field of vision."
Gibbs made one of the two free throws and then Taylor completed the three-point play to give Pitt a 41-31 lead. The Mountaineers are 1-6 in games they fall behind by at least 10 points.
Deniz Kilicli had 12 points on 6-for-13 shooting and didn't attempt a free throw. He was 2-for-10 from the floor in Saturday's loss to Syracuse. In the past four games, he's 16-for-38 from the floor and 2-for-7 from the free-throw line.
"Personally," he said, "I'd like to punch some stuff right now. That's how I feel."
His play will become much more important now. His backup, redshirt freshman Kevin Noreen, broke his left ankle late in the first half and is out indefinitely.
Freshman Jabarie Hinds missed 7 of his 11 shots and scored 10 points. Browne had six points, but in the second half missed the front end of a one-and-one down by five, turned the ball over with a bad pass in transition down by five and then was called for a charge in transition when down by four.
WVU outrebounded Pitt 32-31, despite the Panthers being No. 3 in the country in rebounding margin. The only noticeably different stat in a six-point game was the Panthers making three more baskets.
Pitt had far better success getting to and gathering loose balls and making the most of the extra opportunities.
The Mountaineers, who played three games in six days, are off until Sunday when they play at Providence (12-10, 1-8).
"They were the tougher team and they did what it took to win and we didn't," Jones said. "Especially with the young guys, you can see we're mentally and physically drained. With us losing three in a row, this is a good time for everyone to sit back and get refocused."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.