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As games go, it will definitely make a future "Greatest Games in Pittsburgh Sports History" list. As rivalry games go, the sweetness of a contest like this increase tenfold when your team is on the winning end. And as important games go, it could end up being one to propel your team to heights previously thought unreachable when the season started.

Roll all those into one and you have Pitt 98, West Virginia 95, in triple overtime, at The Pete. It was a game that was competing with the Olympic Opening Ceremonies and Pens-Rangers on the local TV dials, but by the end of the night, a national ESPN audience watched as the thrilling conclusion even made Sportscenter sit and wait. It was just the second triple-OT game in Pitt history, the first coming in 1975-76 against George Washington.

The best way to describe the game would be "roller coaster ride", because just when you think it was over - BOOM - it's not. Whether it was Ashton Gibbs hitting a three to bring the Panthers back from a seven-point deficit with 50 seconds to go, or Darryl Bryant hitting a trifecta with 1.7 seconds to go to force a second overtime, the latest edition of the Backyard Brawl had you expecting the unexpected. At least that's the only way I can describe a 91% free throw shooter like Gibbs missing the back-half of two shots to leave the door open for Bryant's miracle.

As bad as Pitt looked at times in the last game between these two teams was as good as they looked on Friday night. Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown, held scoreless in the first go-round, combined for 40 points in the rematch; Gibbs' 24 points, 18 of them from three-point land, solidified his status as the Panthers go-to shooter; Travon Woodall scored four of his 12 points in the final minute of regulation, and added seven boards; and Gary McGhee provided some much-needed grit to the tune of 12 rebounds, two huge blocks, and the game's final rebound. To go to the cliche well, this was a total team effort - and it usually is when you're facing the #4 team in the country.

On the other end, it was another bitter pill for Mountaineer fans to swallow, especially when it looked like a win was in the process of being chalked up. Da'Sean Butler put up 32 points, Bryant added 20, and three 'Eers reached double-figures in rebounds. But there's a reason why games are 40 minutes long and not 39, and that's what it looked like the Mountaineers forgot last night. Bob Huggins was not too complimentary of his team afterwards:

"I've done this for 30 years, man," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said, asked if he could remember a game with so many swings. "There isn't much I haven't seen. They didn't fold, they continue to compete, but they couldn't have won without a lot of help from us."

Maybe next time, Huggy Bear. In the meantime, someone cue the sad trombone.

The win lifts the Panthers to 19-6 (8-4 in the Big East) and drop the Mountaineers to 19-5/8-4. It was the third win in a row for Pitt, and raised their all-time record to 6-0 against top-five opponents at The Pete. Pitt and WVU join Georgetown in a three-way tie for third place in the conference, trailing 11-1 Syracuse and 10-1 Villanova, which will face Pitt next Sunday.

The Panthers have one obstacle between now and then, that being Marquette, which sits at 15-8 and 6-5 in the conference. Those teams will meet Thursday night at Marquette, with a 9 PM start.

Until then, Pitt players and fans can sit back and enjoy a few days off in light of a great effort on the court and a clean, flying debris-free effort in the stands. Said Coach Dixon: "I'm proud of our students and the way they handled everything."

Pitt dumps WVU in triple-overtime thriller [Trib]

Pitt-WVU video highlights [ESPN]

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Hanlon7117 said...

I've been fortunate to be able to attend a lot of Pittsburgh sporting events, Pitt or otherwise, and last night was without question the most fun I've ever had.

I love that the story of THIS game is the play of the athletes and not that a bunch of fans acted like jackasses.

AME said...

Or the officials who tried to give the game to WVU time and time again.

Da'Shon Butler is the Wayne Gretzky of college basketball. Fucking ridiculous!

BURGH08 said...

This is why (from a pure fan perspective) I'm not enthralled about any possible move to the Big Ten for Pitt.

Pitt/WVU is a true rivalry now in both football and basketball. Just the games from the last few years in each sport have had a level of intensity and excitement that would surely be removed if they both didn't exist in the Big East.