PITT (13-9, 2-7 Big East) AT WEST VIRGINIA (15-7, 5-4 Big East)
Time/TV: 7 p.m./ESPN
Location: WVU Coliseum
Pittsburgh 95 (No. 11 Big East)
West Virginia 17 (No. 4 Big East)
Line: West Virginia -6.5
Pittsburgh Players to Watch: G Ashton Gibbs, 6-2 Sr. (16.5 ppg, 3 apg, 83.6% FT); F Nasir Robinson, 6-5 Sr. (12.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 60.4% FG); G Tray Woodall, 5-11 Jr. (10.9 ppg, 7.4 apg, 41.7% 3s). In the Panthers’ last two games – both wins – Robinson has made 16-of-22 shots, 5-of-7 free throws, scored 37 points and grabbed 14 boards. He made all nine of his shots in Pitt’s 72-60 win over No. 20 Georgetown on Saturday.
West Virginia Players to Watch: F Kevin Jones, 6-8 Sr. (20.9 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 54.4% FG); G Darryl “Truck” Bryant, 6-2 Sr. (17.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.7 apg); G Jabarie Hinds, 5-11 Fr. (8.2 ppg, 3.5 apg, 35.2% 3s). Jones has scored at least 20 points in his last seven games. He has earned double-doubles in four of those seven and now leads the Big East in scoring and rebounding.
Storylines: After a fast start by West Virginia and a 0-7 start by Pitt, both teams have seen their momentum reverse in the last week. The Mountaineers started Big East play 5-2, including wins over Georgetown and Cincinnati, but they have lost two straight. Pitt got its first league win over Providence, 86-74 on Wednesday, before knocking off the Hoyas.
Keys: This is the 183rd “Backyard Brawl” with West Virginia leading the tight series 95-87. The Mountaineers are 61-29 against the Panthers all-time at home. Pitt has won the last three and nine of the last 12. Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins has never suffered a 3-game losing streak at West Virginia. Behind Robinson, Pitt leads the Big East in rebounding margin. The Panthers beat their opponents on the glass by 10.3 rebounds per game, which trails only North Carolina and Quinnipiac in the nation. West Virginia is second in the league at plus-6.7, which is 29th-best in America. Despite its early struggles, Pitt is fourth in the Big East with a 46.2 shooting percentage. West Virginia is fifth at 45.7. Besides DePaul, the Mountaineers and Panthers have the league’s two worst field goal defenses. Pitt allows its opponents to shoot 44.2 percent and West Virginia opponents shoot 43.9, although the Mountaineers have much better 3-point field goal defense (30.5) to Pitt (33.9). The Panthers and Mountaineers are two of the worst free throw shooting teams in the Big East. Pitt is slightly better at 68.1 percent. WVU shoots a horrendous 64.3 percent. West Virginia led No. 3 Syracuse by six points early in the first half, 48-47 with 8:12 left and was tied with the Orange with 1:22 remaining in Saturday’s loss. The Mountaineers held Syracuse to 4-of-20 from the 3-point line. The Panthers out-rebounded Georgetown 35-23, held the Hoyas to 42 percent shooting and had 20 assists on 25 baskets. Woodall led the way with 10. The Panthers have shot 46 percent or better in all three games since Woodall’s return. They didn’t shoot better than 44 in any of the six Big East games without him. The Panthers were 5-7 without Woodall and are 8-2 with him. Pitt sophomore forward Lamar Patterson had 18 points, seven assists and four rebounds in Saturday’s win. He has made 18 of his last 31 field goal attempts and has increased his averages to 9.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. WVU is 11-1 at home this season and has won 10 straight at WVU Coliseum since a 70-60 loss to Kent State on Nov. 15. Pitt is 2-4 in true road games, including all four in Big East play. Their last road win came Dec. 3 at Tennessee. However, the Panthers have won 24 of their last 36 road games overall.
The Bottom Line: Woodall’s return to the lineup has the Panthers playing well. West Virginia may take the win at home, but Pitt has a great shot at covering.
The Pick: West Virginia 65, Pitt 61
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 52-28