New Castle News

February 17, 2012

Backyard Basketbrawl: West Virginia storms past Pittsburgh

By Staff
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — West Virginia center Deniz Kilicli doesn't know if he'll get chance to play Pittsburgh again. The next time the rivals face each other on the basketball court, Kilicli could be long gone.

The burly center from Turkey didn't miss a chance to give the Mountaineers perhaps the final word in the Backyard Brawl.

Feeding off an electric Petersen Events Center that taunted him at every turn, Kilicli scored 14 points and provided one primal scream as West Virginia rolled by the reeling Panthers 66-48 on Thursday night.

"I've always wanted to win here," Kilicli said. "They've lost 18 games here and I've been in one of those 18 games. That's a sign of respect, too. It's a hell of a good record right there. And I'm on the team that gave them their 18th loss."

Kevin Jones added his 17th double-double of the season with 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Mountaineers (17-10, 7-7 Big East), who dominated the second half to avenge a home loss to the Panthers two weeks ago.

"This is a special opportunity for us," Jones said. "This could be the last Backyard Brawl. We wanted to end it on a win. They came down and beat us at home, so why not turn around and return the favor?"

West Virginia did it with defense, holding the Panthers (15-12, 4-10) to 37 percent-shooting as Pitt finished with as many turnovers (17) as field goals while losing its third straight.

Tray Woodall led the Panthers with 12 points, but Pitt struggled getting anything going offensively as the Mountaineers used their length to hold Ashton Gibbs in check. The Big East preseason Player of the Year scored just eight points on 2-of-11 shooting.

"They deserved it," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "West Virginia outplayed us."

The Mountaineers turned a one-point halftime lead into a 40-33 advantage on a Kilicli hook shot before the Pete briefly showed signs of life during a timeout when a West Virginia fan was ejected for throwing a T-shirt shot to him by a cannon back onto the arena floor.

The Panthers came out of the timeout and forced a turnover that Woodall turned into a three-point play to get Pitt within 40-36.

The momentum didn't last.

Gary Browne hit a putback, Jones drilled a jumper and Kilicli beat Pitt's Dante Taylor for a dunk, drawing a foul in the process. Kilicli screamed in the direction of the Pitt student section — which had been heckling him with chants of "USA! USA!" — after the play, then hit the free throw to push the Mountaineers in front 47-36.

"We need him to be a force inside," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said of Kilicli, who received a pep talk from Huggins during one timeout after Kilicli whined about a no-call rather than get back on defense.

Huggins reminded Kilicli to stay in the game, and Kilicli responded by teaming with Jones to shut down the paint. West Virginia outscored the Panthers 30-16 in the paint.

"We're more talented than they are," Kilicli said. "We've got better depth. The first time we lost it because we didn't get the hustle balls. We Darryl "Truck" Bryant, who started the game on the bench for the first time this season after an incident in downtown Morgantown last weekend, scored 15 points including a three-point play that pushed the lead to 52-36 with 6:52 remaining and sent fans streaming toward the exits.

West Virginia improved its all-time mark against the Panthers to 96-88 and, unless they meet again in next month's Big East tournament, this could be the last chapter of one of the nation's oldest rivalries for quite a while.

The Mountaineers announced earlier this week they're leaving the Big East to join the Big 12 next season and, with Pitt heading to the ACC by 2014, there's a serious chance the series could go on indefinite hiatus.

Huggins said Tuesday he'd be "shocked" if the rivalry doesn't continue at some point, though it's nearly a certainty there won't be a game next season for the first time in nearly a century.

Dixon didn't think the unusual circumstances would make a difference, there appeared to be a sense of desperation on both sides. Then again, maybe it had less to do with history and more to do with the immediate future.

The Panthers are in danger of missing the NCAA tournament and are already assured of their worst Big East record in more than a decade.

The Mountaineers appeared to be in solid shape three weeks ago but came in losers in five of their last six, including a 72-66 upset at home to Pitt on Jan. 30. It was a victory that was supposed to turn things around for the Panthers. Instead, the defending Big East champions have slipped back to the bottom of the conference standings and likely need to win the conference tournament to play meaningful games in late March.

The emotions led to some energetic if sloppy play. West Virginia rode Kilicli — who hit a pair of hook shots that looked like they would have fit right at home when the series began in 1904 — and Jones to a narrow 26-25 halftime lead.

The Mountaineers took control after the break, never letting Pitt back in front. West Virginia walked off the court to chants of "Let's Go Mountaineers" that echoed throughout the quickly emptying building.