PITTSBURGH — The very first basketball game in West Virginia history was against Pitt in 1903, and there have been 179 games in the Backyard Brawl rivalry since then. Not one was like this.
No previous game was so long, with so many swings in momentum and so many emotional ups and downs. So many chances to win — and, too, to lose by a pair of Top 25 rivals who seemingly couldn’t stop playing. So many what-ifs and why nots, so much energy expended and so much time devoted to winning a single game.
Gilbert Brown and Ashton Gibbs made two free throws each in the final 30 seconds after No. 25 Pittsburgh staged a frantic rally to tie it in regulation, then weathered three exhausting overtimes and West Virginia’s own comeback to beat the No. 5 Mountaineers 98-95 on Friday night.
“I was talking today about this game, how it’s always a great rivalry and a classic,” Brown said. “And it was.”
Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker scored 24 points each for Pitt (19-6, 8-4), which tied Georgetown and West Virginia for third place in the Big East by avenging a 19-point loss in Morgantown only 10 days before.
Da’Sean Butler had 32 points and 11 rebounds, Darryl Bryant scored 20 and Devin Ebanks had 17 points and 10 rebounds, yet they couldn’t prevent the Mountaineers (19-5, 8-4) from losing their second in a row after they led by double digits in each half.
“This is definitely one of the toughest losses I’ve had,” Bryant said. “This game probably put Pitt in the NCAAs.”
This Backyard Brawl was one of the most pulsating in the 107-year rivalry, with Pitt surging back to tie it after trailing by five points with 35 seconds to play in regulation but then failing twice to put it away in overtime.
It was the second time in less than a month the Panthers came from five down in the final minute of regulation to win; they also did it while beating Louisville 82-77 in overtime on Jan. 16, when they trailed 68-63 and barely a half-minute remaining.
“I never thought we’d have another game like that in the same season, but we did,” Brown said. “But the Louisville game wasn’t on our minds. What was on our minds was what coach (Jamie Dixon) said at halftime, he said we were going to win the game. Only a minute to go, and coach still said we were going to win this game. That’s what helped us push through.”
Eastern men 74, Montana State 69
CHENEY — Freshman Glen Dean scored seven of his 12 points in the final 1:06, helping Eastern Washington (7-18)snap a seven-game losing streak with a victory over Montana State (12-12).