MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In 2017, the return of the Backyard Brawl after a five-year absence featured an under-matched Pitt team that held its own in a nine-point loss at the Petersen Events Center.
A year later, the Panthers rode into Morgantown with a 7-2 record and the feeling that they possessed a far better basketball team than the unit that finished 8-24 a season ago.
At least against the Mountaineers, that just wasn’t the case, as the talented but inexperienced Panthers turned the ball over 24 times and lost 66-59 at WVU Coliseum on Saturday, falling a point shy of the game’s total a year ago.
Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens were the only Panthers that were able to accomplish much offensively. Johnson had 21 and McGowens scored 18, but Johnson also contributed eight of Pitt’s turnovers, a career high.
The Panthers weren’t having that much trouble dealing with West Virginia’s vaunted full-court press defense, they just had a large collection of unforced errors in the half court in and transition once they’d cleared the half-court line.
The Mountaineers got 22 points off turnovers, with guard James “Beetle” Bolden leading the way with 16 points.
Inside, Sagaba Konate was a huge difference-maker for the Mountaineers. Head coach Bob Huggins said earlier int he week that he was unlikely to play in the game with a balky knee, but he had six blocks, nine rebounds and scored 16 points to lead West Virginia in the paint.
West Virginia led by as many as 17 in the early part of the second half, but a 7-0 Pitt run helped close the game to within a few possessions late.