All Fouled Up

NEW YORK -- The Pitt-West Virginia battle Thursday night at the Big East Conference Tournament sounded more like a basketball camp than a tournament game with all the whistles blown.

A total of 38 fouls were called in West Virginia's 74-60 victory against Pittsburgh in the Big East quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden. The stars of both teams were affected the most.

Pitt sophomore center DeJuan Blair was saddled with two fouls in the first four minutes of the game, including one in the opening minute, and didn't return to the court until the start of the second half. Although he finished with 14 points, Blair only played 18 minutes before fouling out with 1:17 to play.

"We couldn't hit shots, and they put the 1-3-1 (zone defense) on us, and it was tough to guard with all the foul trouble we had,'' Blair said.

Fellow frontcourt member Tyrell Biggs accumulated three first-half fouls and was replaced by sophomore guard Bradley Wanamaker at the onset of the second half. Pitt's foul trouble forced Pitt coach Jamie Dixon to use 10 players instead of his usual eight-man rotation.

"We had a number of guys in foul trouble early, and it really changed our rotation a bit,'' Dixon said. "We had to do some things differently, play some different guys and in different spots.''

Wanamaker, who tallied seven points, also fouled out for the Panthers. Meanwhile, West Virginia junior guard Da'Sean Butler was whistled for three first-half fouls, but fought through to score 16 points and play 33 minutes.

"I know with my frame, (Pitt's) got some pretty big guys,'' Butler said. "We didn't really focus on trying to out-man them as far as strength, but being more aggressive as they are and matching intensity. I think we did that tonight.''

West Virginia starting forward Wellington Smith had four fouls, including two in the first half, and was neutralized in his 18 minutes by the Pitt defense. But Smith's replacement, John Flowers, replaced his production with nine pints and five rebounds, including a crucial tip-in at the buzzer of the first half that gave the Mountaineers a two-point lead.

Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said that the initial part of the game plan was to go after both Blair and Biggs.

"I wanted (Smith) to attack Blair, but we had to get the spread first because they do a great job on defense,'' Huggins said. "We talked about controlling the game with our offense, and I thought we did that.''

With just a little help from the refs' whistles.

Panther Digest Top Stories