PITTSBURGH — Starting four freshmen against the No. 18 team in the country, the Pitt Panthers were 15.5-point underdogs in the renewal of the Backyard Brawl against the West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday night at Petersen Events Center.
The stands, more than half full for the first time all season, were filled largely with those supporting the Blue and Gold of West Virginia instead of Pitt. Then, the young Panthers struggled mightily in the first half and went into the break with an 18-point deficit, setting up a scenario for a truly ugly final.
It didn’t play out that way.
The young Panthers battled back with an inspired second half, coming up short of an earth-shattering comeback, but making an impression nonetheless in a 69-60 loss to the Mountaineers.
Senior forward Ryan Luther led the way for the Panthers, despite racking up two fouls before the Panthers even made a basket. He finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season. With Luther’s help, Pitt out-rebounded the Mountaineers, 38-32.
Freshman point guard Marcus Carr had an impressive effort, with 12 points and four assists. He helped the Panthers neutralize West Virginia’s vaunted press. The Panthers still had 14 turnovers compared to nine for West Virginia, but considering that the Panthers have posted similar margins against lesser opponents, the improvement was noticeable.
Shamiel Stevenson had 12 points and Jared Wilson-Frame hit nine. The Panthers made 22 of 31 free throws, while West Virginia went just 5 of 9.
Jevon Carter led all scorers with 19. Daxter Miles, Jr. had 15 and Lamont West had 13. The Mountaineers were plagued by foul trouble all game. Carter, Miles and Sagabe Konate finished with four fouls while Wesley Harris fouled out.
Pitt’s next game will be next Saturday against McNeese State.