As it was, West Virginia probably needed to play a close-to-perfect game if it had any chance of toppling fourth-rated Pitt at the Peterson Events Center. Add to that a miserable night for Da'Sean Butler, and foul problems galore for a team that has little to no offensive depth to begin with, and the task becomes even more monotonous.
Such was the case here on Monday night as the Panthers took advantage of virtually every WVU miscue – of which there were certainly plenty – on their way to an anti-climactic 70-59 win over the Mountaineers. A capacity crowd of 12,508 was on hand to watch Pitt win its 17th straight came at the on-campus facility in Oakland.
Leading the way for Pitt was Mountaineer-killer Sam Young, who – barring another meeting between the teams in the postseason – finally played his last game against WVU. Young, a senior forward and all-Big East candidate, scored 20 points on seven-of-12 shooting in the win. He also grabbed seven rebounds and blocked three shots in 34 minutes of play.
Young's effort was likely all that Pitt needed for the win, even with standout sophomore center DeJuan Blair playing just 16 minutes on the night due to foul problems. As mentioned, the Mountaineers probably needed to do just about everything right to begin with. Simply put, they weren't even close.
Butler, who had scored at least 20 points in six of his past seven games and entered this contest averaging nearly 18 points per contest, was virtually non-existant for the whole night. The junior forward from Newark, N.J. made just two of his 12 field-goal attempts to finish with four points. He did not grab a rebound, attempt a free throw or dish out an assist and fouled out with 4:43 to play. Butler's four-point effort snapped a streak of 14 straight games in which he had scored in double figures.
Alex Ruoff, the lone senior on the floor in blue, did what he could to pick up the slack, scoring 17 points to lead the visitors. Ruoff, though, was also in foul trouble for much of the night, picking up two personals in the first half and fouling out with 7:18 to play. If there is a silver lining from this night for West Virginia, it is that Ruoff's shooting slump looks to be over. The Spring Hill, Fla. native hit six 3s in Saturday's win over Providence, and followed that performance up with four more tonight.
Another bright spot for the Mountaineers was the play of freshman forward Devin Ebanks, who was unquestionably the most consistent player of the night for WVU. Ebanks put the team on his back early in the game, scoring the first eight points of the night for West Virginia. He finished with a career-high 16 points, and was as active as always, securing seven rebounds, dishing out three assists and blocking one shot in a team-high 36 minutes of action.
On the glass, where WVU is normally a lion, the Mountaineers played like a lamb. Pitt owned a laughable 39-23 advantage on the boards, with Blair grabbing nine despite his limited minutes.
"We can't get outrebounded by 16," said a subdued Bob Huggins afterward. "We just can't do it. We've got to be somewhere in the same ballpark with them. We gave up too many shots in the paint and had too many breakdowns. It's just hard. Every possession for us is so important because we struggle to score enough points (to win)."
The Panthers, who have now won 10 of the past 11 meetings between the schools held in Pittsburgh, shot 48 percent for the game. Of Pitt's 16 made shots in the second half, 11 were layups. The Panthers built a lead as large as 17 points with just under six minutes to play in the game.
West Virginia will have tomorrow off, and begin practicing again on Wednesday in preparation for Friday night's 9:00 tipoff at the Coliseum with