PITTSBURGH PA- In the 187th edition of the Backyard Brawl, the West Virginia Mountaineers pulled away from the Pitt Panthers in the second half by a score of 68-53, highlighted by a double-double performance by Oscar Tshiebwe.
Despite a back and forth first-half that displayed little rhythm on either side due to fouls, the Mountaineers were able to take a one-point lead into halftime for adjustments.
With the first half under their belt, the Mountaineers came out strong in the second half, dominating the paint and outrebounding the Panthers 51-35 on the night.
On the Pittsburgh side, the Panthers came out of halftime flat, shooting just 12% in the second half (3-25.)
With the physicality the Mountaineers displayed during the second half, the Mountaineers were able to force tough shots by the Panthers late in the game, despite not being a schematic change that they made at halftime.
“I think they got worn down a little,” said Huggins. “I don’t know that we did anything different than we did in the first half, conceptually, so I think they just got worn down a little bit.”
Panthers coach Jeff Capel highlighted the length of the Mountaineers starting five as a reason for his guys getting worn out.
“They’re a big team and really dominated inside in the paint, had offensive rebounds, and made it really difficult for us to score around the basket. I thought the game was lost in the first three minutes of the second half,” said Capel. “We didn’t finish strong or play through contact and that gave them more confidence to become even more physical and more dominant.”
In the proverbial coming out party for Oscar Tshiebwe, he controlled the paint all night with an impressive 20 points and 17 rebounds, marking his first double-double in his Mountaineer career.
“Yeah, I mean that’s his best game so far,” said Huggins. “We’re just trying to get him to slow down. He goes too fast at times. He’s got great hands. He takes a beating physically and it doesn’t bother him.”
Emmitt Matthews Jr. contributed in a big way with 17 points and 8 rebounds of his own, while off the bench Sean McNeil finished with 11 points, and continues to provide solid minutes in relief for Bob Huggins.
With the win, the Mountaineers mark their fourth straight Backyard Brawl victory and move to 2-0 on the season.
West Virginia will face Northern Colorado this Monday. The game will tip-off at 7:00, and will be broadcasted on AT&T Sportsnet.