Bring On WVU

NEW YORK -- There's been plenty of talk about Pitt and Connecticut possibly meeting for a third time this season in the Big East Tournament.

Before that happens, Pittsburgh will have to play its third game against West Virginia this year in the quarterfinals Thursday night at 7.

The Mountaineers beat Notre Dame, 74-62, in a second-round game Wednesday night and shot 11-for-20 from 3-point range. Pitt already has beaten beaten WVU twice this season, and perimeter defense was key in determining each outcome.

In a 79-67 win in Morgantown Jan. 25, Pitt held the Mountaineers to 5-of-19 shooting from 3-point range. That cleared the way for senior Sam Young and sophomore DeJuan Blair, who combined for 36 points in the win.

Then, on Feb. 9 at the Petersen Events Center, Pitt limited West Virginia to 5-of-16 shooting from 3-point range, and the Panthers pulled away to a 70-59 win despite Blair watching most of the game from the bench in foul trouble.

Nonetheless, West Virginia's offensive stars produced in each game. Alex Ruoff scored a combined 33 points in those two games and Da'Sean Butler scored 22 in the game at Morgantown.

"These two guys have been terrific for us all year,'' WVU coach Bob Huggins said. "You try to make some adjustments, and it's hard to do it when they're not on the floor because they know what's going on. They do a great job of coaching our younger guys.''

Playing Pitt, though, the Big East Tournament's No. 2 seed with a 28-3 record is different than playing Notre Dame, and Ruoff knows it after two tough battles against the Panthers.

"We just have to man up,'' Ruoff said after scoring 25 points in the win against Notre Dame. "(Pitt's) a physical team. We got into a lot of foul trouble at their place, and we were in it at our place and made some mental mistakes. We have to limit our mental mistakes and match their physical play.''

Or avoid it by shooting 3s. West Virginia shot 11-of-20 from behind the arc against Notre Dame, and Ruoff, who was held scoreless in a game last Saturday night against Louisville, hit four of his seven 3-point attempts.

"It hurt me because I care about my team,' Ruoff said about his brick-laying performance "But that's just something you have to put behind you.''

Pitt and West Virginia played in the 2006 Big East Tournament, when the sixth-seeded Panthers upset the No. 3 seed Mountaineers, 68-57, in the quarterfinals. Pitt ended up losing in the title game to Syracuse.

And even though Madison Square Garden basically has been Pitt's home away from home in recent years because of the team's steady stream of New York-area players, West Virginia has been relatively successful at the Garden, as well. The Mountaineers are 11-5 in their last 16 games at the Garden, and Huggins is 3-1 in the Big East Tourney since taking over at WVU in 2007.

Pitt, though, is 23-8 at Madison Square Garden since the 2000-01 season. The Panthers currently have three players from the New York area. Levance Fields and Travon Woodall are from Brooklyn, and Tyrell Biggs is from Nanuet, N.Y.

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