WVU basketball: Pittsburgh wears down, beats up WVU
Two days after a dreadful shooting performance led to the third-lowest point total in 132 games with Bob Huggins, the 25th-ranked Mountaineers were outrebounded by 12, outscored in the paint by 18 and outplayed in the areas that mattered most Monday.
No. 4 Pitt followed four players who scored in double figures to replace injured leading scorer Ashton Gibbs and beat WVU, 71-66, before 14,174 inside the Coliseum.
"They outmanned us, is what happened," Huggins said. "They just beat us to death on the offensive glass and drove it where they wanted to drive it. They just outmanned us."
The Panthers (22-2, 10-1 Big East) matched their best start in Big East play by scoring points on 25 of their 30 possessions in the second half.
The five empty possessions were three turnovers, one one-shot possession where WVU grabbed the defensive rebound and two missed free throws on Pitt's final possession.
"They probably took two or three jump shots the entire second half," said WVU point guard Joe Mazzulla. "The rest of it was layups and second-chance points."
Pitt shot 60.7 percent in the second half, one game after Villanova shot 60 percent against WVU in the second half of their game. Of Pitt's 48 second-half points, 26 came in the paint, 12 came on offensive rebounds and 13 came at the free-throw line.
The nation's No. 1 team in rebounding margin finished with a 40-28 advantage, including 18-8 in offensive rebounds.
"It definitely wore on us," said WVU forward Kevin Jones.
"They're a smart team. They didn't take any rushed shots. After they got a rebound, they'd pass it out and run the offense again. It's all a part of them being the best team in the Big East. We have to learn from this and grow from it and if we don't get better from it, it's just a bad experience."
WVU (15-8, 6-5) lost for the fourth time in seven games and failed to reach 70 points for the sixth consecutive game, the longest streak in four seasons under Huggins and the worst since seven in a row since the 2005 season.
A win Saturday at Villanova would have pushed the Mountaineers into a tie for second place in the standings.
They're now in eighth before Saturday's home game against DePaul (6-16, 0-10), one of two opponents in the final seven regular-season games that isn't ranked.
"We're outmanned," Huggins said. "I can't trade them. I could waive them, I guess, but I wouldn't get anybody for them. I could sit here and lie to you, but I'm not going to lie to you. We just got outmanned."
WVU had the game's high-scorer, but wasted a career performance from Deniz Kilicli, who scored a personal best 19 points on 9-for-13 shooting. He scored 10 straight points over 12 minutes in the first half.
"Doesn't matter," he said. "I wish I would have scored two points and we won the game."
Jones was the only other WVU player in double figures. He had 12 points and eight rebounds, but it was a struggle. He was 5-for-11 and missed five straight shots and went scoreless for 27 minutes after starting the game with a 3-pointer.
Casey Mitchell was 2-for-10 and 1-for-6 from 3-point range for seven points and Truck Bryant was 2-for-8 and 0-for-4 for nine points.
John Flowers battled foul trouble and played just 27 minutes. He had five points, five rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots and Pitt did a lot of its damage with him on the bench in the second half.
"You can't lose a John Flowers," Huggins said. "When you lose a John Flowers, you lose a guy who's a factor around the rim. When John gets in foul trouble, we're not very athletic as it is, so it really takes a dive."
Nasir Robinson led the Panthers with 15 points on 7-for-12 shooting and eight rebounds. Gary McGhee was 5-for-6 for 13 points. Brad Wannamaker added 12 points and nine rebounds and Travon Woodall, who started in place of Gibbs, had 11 points and made his team's only 3-pointer of the game to double Pitt's lead with 6:28 remaining.
Woodall also started for Gibbs, who could be out for up to two weeks with a knee injury. He was leading the team with 16.3 points per game.
"Everybody else was asking who was going to step up, but we didn't have to have anyone step up," Coach Jamie Dixon said. "We just had to play the way we play, do the things we do and execute. No one really had to do anything different or shoot more 3s or become a different player overnight."
Gibbs is No. 2 in the Big East games in 3-point shooting, but the Panthers didn't try to replace the productivity. They were just 1-for-6 and instead outscored WVU 42-24 in the paint.
"They just attack the rim," Huggins said. "They pound it at you, pound it at you, pound it at you."
WVU led by eight early on, but then lost the lead when Pitt put together a 12-2 run as WVU missed eight of nine shots and committed five turnovers. The Mountaineers still managed a 25-23 halftime lead, but Pitt started the second half 7-for-11 with 10 points in the paint and six second-chance points before WVU managed one offensive rebound.
WVU briefly took back the lead when the second of Dalton Pepper's 3s made it 46-45 with 8:41 remaining, but the Panthers regained control and scored on 10 consecutive possessions and eventually led by as much as many as nine points.
"Their putbacks changed the whole game," Kilicli said. "When you get three put-backs, it changes the momentum and they started to feel better about themselves and they guarded better then what they do and rebounded better than what they do. And when you get down, that's what happens."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.