(Image from WVU Athletics)
Morgantown, West Virginia – The Mountaineers play in their second game of the season against rival Pitt at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at 7 PM on the ACC Network or ESPN+. This game will be WVU’s toughest test yet, playing against a Pitt team that that seems to be MUCH better than the Pitt team that the Mountaineers have faced in recent years.
Pitt won 80-58 in a buy-in game against UT Martin Monday Night. Pitt Forward Blake Hinson had 27 points, 13 rebounds, and shot 5-6 from the foul line. Pitt’s second-best scorer, Federiko Federiko had 13 points and seven rebounds.
One thing to keep note of is that Pitt had a similar number of turnovers to WVU. Committing 15 turnovers and committing 21 fouls against UT Martin indicates that Friday night’s game could be a slugfest, with many fouls being called. Pitt only put up 80 points against the Skyhawks and gave up 58, indicating that the Backyard Brawl could very well be a low-scoring affair. The most points that either team has put up since this rivalry has been renewed was 74, when WVU defeated Pitt in Morgantown 74-59. I see that trend continuing this year as both sets of offenses are still VERY unproven, and the fact that it is ONLY the second game of the year will play a large part in that.
Keys to the game:
West Virginia HAS to win the turnover battle. The team this year seems to be focusing more on defense, and that has shown. WVU forced 17 turnovers against Mount Saint Mary’s, which led to offense in that game. If the Mountaineers can emulate that against Pitt, they will be successful. The second point is that WVU needs to limit its OWN turnovers. 18 turnovers will not cut it against a Power-5 program, and if they want any chance to take momentum away from Pitt’s offense, they NEED to keep better control of the ball. Knowing Huggins, that is the prime thing he is working on in preparation for this game. Finally, WVU needs to shoot as well from the free-throw line as they did against Mount Saint Mary’s. The Mountaineers shot 14-19 (73.7%) from the charity stripe in their first game (which has been much better than past teams on average). If this game ends up becoming a hack fest with multiple fouls, this game could come down to the wire. Shooting OVER 70% from the foul line is key in any game, but especially in close, physical games.
Who they play next:
After the Brawl, the Panthers play #22 Michigan on Wednesday and will need all the help they can get in this game to have the momentum to beat the Wolverines. The Mountaineers head back home to face the Morehead State Eagles on Tuesday at 7:00 ET on ESPN+.