MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — On Friday night, Pitt fell to West Virginia by a score of 74-59 in the 2021-22 version of the Backyard Brawl.
The Panthers led by as much as four points about four minutes into the game, but trailed seemingly the rest of the way as the Mountaineers controlled both sides of the ball.
Here are PSN’s Five Takeaways from the Friday night brawl.
Young Panthers Struggled in Hectic Environment
Without question, a sold-out West Virginia crowd on a Friday night in Morgantown will most likely be the toughest challenge crowd-wise that Pitt will face all year.
In this second game of the season, the young Panthers players struggled to handle the crowd intensity as well as the intensity from the West Virginia players on the floor.
The Mountaineers forced Pitt to turn the ball over 32 times. Femi Odukale, the target of “Number two sucks” chants as well as boos throughout the game, turned the ball over eight times, including twice when his turnovers resulted in emotional outbursts.
Odukale again, struggling to keep his emotions in check. Heads to the bench after this jump ball TO pic.twitter.com/ZRFHwLhyLr
— George Michalowski (@MichalowskiCBB) November 13, 2021
Sophomore William Jeffress also struggled to keep his emotions in check at one point after a foul call, but was settled down by his veteran teammates as well as Assistant Coach Milan Brown.
Hugley’s Numbers are Going to Stay Crazy High
The sophomore big man only played six minutes in the first half of this one, due to two early fouls that he picked up.
However, Hugley came back out for the second half and dropped 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting, scoring on the block, banking in a three, and more.
In addition to his 17 points, Hugley’s six rebounds add up to make another impressive stat-line for the sophomore.
Through two games, the one player on Pitt’s roster who has proven that he can score consistently is John Hugley. Whether it was on the smaller front court of The Citadel (27 points) or West Virginia’s bigs, Hugley shot the ball at a high rate and finished around the rim.
Whether the opposition’s front court is bigger than him or not, Hugley is going to get the ball down low a significant amount in every game for Pitt this year. There are just not enough proven scorers on Pitt’s roster to handle 10-20 shots per game and convert at a solid rate other than Hugley. He is not afraid to use his power and take it inside and even knocked in a three as well. Expect Hugley’s double-digit scoring efforts to continue.
Santos Plays Tough, Needs to Trust His Shot
Just two weeks ago, nobody expected freshman Nate Santos to play a big role for this Pitt basketball team.
Fast forward to game two of the season, and Santos just started against West Virginia and played more than 33 minutes in the game.
Santos clearly has solid shooting form and knows that he is a good shooter, but as the two games have gone on it seems as though he is not fully believing that he can be one of the team’s most important scorers.
Pitt Freshman Nate Santos comes off the hand-off and hits the pull-up 3. pic.twitter.com/JwsgESJ5PC
— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) November 13, 2021
After confidently draining a three eight minutes in to cut the West Virginia lead to just one, Santos only attempted four more shots throughout the game and finished with five points on 2-for-5 shooting.
Santos did turn the ball over four times, but on the plus side seemed to be one of the first Panthers crashing onto the floor for each loose ball. He will undoubtedly continue to be a big part of Pitt’s offense and if he shoots the ball with more confidence, can turn into one of the team’s most potent scorers.
Transfers Settling In
After combining for four points against The Citadel, the transfer duo of Mo Gueye and Dan Oladapo took its play up a notch and combined for 18 points against West Virginia.
Oladapo, who has hit all five field goals he has attempted this season, looked more comfortable against WVU in the paint especially. He looked aggressive and played in attack mode throughout, using pivots and pump fakes to get open looks at the rim and converting. In just 16 minutes, he grabbed two offensive boards and one defensive, and showed guts on the floor diving for loose balls and hustling back. While he may not be the fastest player nor the best three-point shooter, Oladapo can be a solid role player for Pitt if he continues to do what he did against WVU.
Gueye is one of the most unpredictable players on the floor whenever he’s out there. The 6-foot-10 forward can stretch the floor and hit threes while also utilizing an outside pump fake to drive by his defender and use his length inside.
While Gueye is expected to play a larger role than Oladapo, both of the newcomers seem to be settling in to their new environment at Pitt and finding their true play styles.
Pitt Showed Heart, Battled Through Adversity
Although the Panthers could not pull close near the end of the game, they did show some fight and Jeff Capel was clearly proud of them for their efforts.
Trailing 43-26 early in the second half, all hope seemed to be lost on the Pitt sideline. West Virginia opened the half with a layup, a dunk, and a three, and the crowd was back into it. The mountaineers were ready to close the game out smoothly the rest of the way.
However, Pitt’s young players were not going to let them take this one just yet.
Then came two Hugley free throws, a Hugley layup, a Santos breakaway dunk, and a Jeffress free throw, and the game was back within 10 points.
The Panthers strung together a few stops, converted on the offensive end, forced Bob Huggins to take a timeout, and took the crowd out of the game for a few minutes, which, for a team with not much to lose in a game like this, was a victory in itself.
Pitt’s next game will come against UNC-Wilmington on Tuesday, Nov. 16.