We Win!

Kevin Pittsnogle scored 26 points and Jo Herber added 16 as No. 16 West Virginia clinched a first round bye in the Big East Tournament with a 67-62 win over No. 8 Pitt on Monday.

Pittsnogle was held scoreless in a loss at Pitt two weeks ago – going 0-of-12 from the field and fouling out with 6:42 left – but rebounded for among his finest efforts on Senior Night. West Virginia honored Pittsnogle, Herber, Mike Gansey, J.D. Collins and Patrick Beilein, who made his second career start and his first this season.

"It ate at me. I thought about it," Pittsnogle said of his past performance. "Then I had somebody from Pittsburgh send me an article from up there about how bad I played. We were not leaving this locker room without a win."

The Mountaineers (20-8, 11-4), who clinched a first-round bye in the Big East tournament, never trailed in earning a second straight 20-win season for the first time since 1997-98 and tying the school record for most Big East wins in a season. It was the first game Pitt (21-5, 10-5) never had a lead in this season.

WVU also overtook Pittsburgh for sole possession of third place and can finish no worse than fourth. The Panthers now need a win in the finale' against Seton Hall and losses by Marquette and No. 20 Georgetown to earn the final bye.

The five WVU seniors combined for 63 of the team's 67 points. Herber, who was honored with his native Germany's national anthem before the game, scored 16 points. Gansey had eight.

"Maybe I will make him a tape he can listen to before the game," Gansey said of Herber, who hit his first three 3-pointers to jumpstart WVU to a 19-6 lead with 14:26 left in the first half.

Pitt had four players in double figures, led by Ronald Ramon and Sam Young, who scored 12 each. Carl Krauser scored 10, but hit just three of 16 shots and was manhandled by Herber and Collins on defense, but continued to throw up poor shots.

"Whoever was on him did a great job," WVU head coach John Beilein said.

Pittsnogle, Herber and Beilein combined for all nine of WVU's first half 3-pointers for a 37-30 lead at the break. The Mountaineers' final six field goals of the half were threes. Pittsnogle also hit a 3-pointer early in the second half and slowed Pitt center Aaron Grey – the Big East leader in rebounding – in the paint.

"He played with a chip on his shoulder," Gray said. "He was more physical. It was his Senior Day. He was on tonight."

West Virginia went ahead 41-30 with 17:49 left via Pittsnogle's free throw. The lead, the largest of the second half, was built when Pitt went scoreless for 7:35 over both halves. It responded to the deficit with an 8-0 run. The Panthers cut the deficit to two points three times after that but never tied the game.

Pittsnogle scored three of West Virginia's next four baskets, and Collins' 3-pointer put the Mountaineers ahead 59-53 with 5:18 left.

Ronald Ramon's 3-pointer ended a 3-minute scoring drought for the Panthers and brought Pittsburgh within 61-58 with 1:40 left before Herber broke around a screen, took an inbounds pass from Beilein and made an uncontested layup, beating the Panthers' defense to the basket with 25 seconds left.

Pittsnogle and Gansey each hit two free throws in one-and-one situations after that to clinch the win.

"We beat a great Pitt team tonight," John Beilein said. "Our seniors were outstanding; their effort was terrific. We were a bit out of character at Pitt. We took shots that we thought were good but were not. We didn't do that tonight and we did a great job of taking the ball to the basket."

WVU seemed to settle into the game quickly despite the Senior Day activities. It scored 19 of the first 25 points, then hit just one field goal in 6:17 as Pitt went on a 15-3 run to pull within 22-21 with 8:55 left in the half. The Panthers had hit 70 percent of their shots to that point.

Pittsnogle then made three consecutive 3-pointers and Beilein added two – including one from 22 feet as the shot clock expired – as WVU extended its edge to 37-30 at the break. Beilein's second 3-pointer was WVU's ninth of the half. It was three fewer than the school first-half record 12 against Marquette on Jan. 14.

Pitt shot 50 percent but had 11 turnovers, six in the first six minutes. That led to 17 WVU points. The Panthers also did not score in the last 4:20 and missed a jump shot at the buzzer.

"When we don't get turnovers, we can't win," John Beilein said. "We had just enough late to hold on to the lead by playing tight defense and swarming the ball. We really dug out some ugly rebounds tonight."

West Virginia has two consecutive wins after losing a season-high three straight. The loss matched Pittsburgh's worst of the season. The Panthers, whose five losses have been by a total of 19 points, could finish as low as sixth in the conference. They lose tiebreakers with Marquette and Georgetown because of losses in head-to-head competition.

"We could have taken better care of the ball," said Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon, who failed in his bid to become just the second Pitt coach to win twice in the WVU Coliseum. "They played well and we battled and played hard. I knew it would come down to the end."

WVU advanced to 18-1 when leading by 10 or more points this season. The two teams could meet again in the Big East Tournament should WVU clinch the third seed and Pitt fall to sixth, then win in the first round.

The crowd of 14,805 was the ninth-largest in Coliseum history. The student section was filled within 10 minutes of the doors opening.

Note:

Brady Campbell was named WVU's new mascot during the game. The junior, from Charleston, W.Va., will take the place of Derek Fincham, who served as mascot for the past two years.

Nineteen students applied for the position before the selections were narrowed to four finalists. Andrew Donato, from Fairmont, was named the alternate. Campbell will begin duties officially on April 15 at the Gold-Blue spring football game.

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