Mountaineers rally from 14-point deficit in just over nine minutes

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Pittsburgh tried recruiting Kevin Pittsnogle a few years ago, but he chose home-state West Virginia. It's a decision that has cost the Panthers ever since.

Pittsnogle scored all but two of his 22 points in the second half and West Virginia rallied from 14 points down in just over nine minutes to surprise Pittsburgh (No. 17 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) for the second time this season, winning 70-66 on Wednesday night.

West Virginia trailed 56-42 before riding Pittsnogle's exceptional outside shooting during a game-ending 28-10 run that saw Pittsburgh held without a field goal for the final 7:26.

The Panthers (18-6, 8-5) missed a chance to move in a third-place tie with Syracuse in the Big East race -- the top five get opening-round byes in the conference tournament -- while losing their second straight to a strong outside shooting team. Villanova went 12-of-23 from 3-point range in beating Pitt 80-72 on Sunday.

The Mountaineers (17-8, 7-7 Big East) swept the season series from Backyard Brawl rival Pitt for the first time since 1998 and gave their NCAA Tournament hopes a significant boost by winning their fifth in six games.

It was a near carbon copy of the 83-78 win over Pitt on Feb. 5, in which West Virginia trailed by 11 points in the second half before winning in overtime behind Pittsnogle's career-high 27 points.

Just as in that game -- which ended Pitt's five-game winning streak against its rival -- the Panthers had no answer for West Virginia's outside shooting. Pittsnogle, a 6-foot-11 junior who came into the game averaging 9.9 points, made four 3-pointers in the second half as West Virginia finished 11-of-26 behind the arc to Pitt's 3-of-11.

Pittsnogle was 5-of-6 as West Virginia made 13-of-18 shots (72.2 percent) in the second half after going 9-of-26 (34.6 percent) in the first half. West Virginia made 24 3-pointers in the two games against Pitt.

Until Pittsnogle suddenly found his range, Pitt was in full control. The Panthers turned a 14-13 deficit into a 33-21 lead late in the first half and then led by double digits for most of the second half until the Mountaineers got hot.

"It's very disappointing to be in the situation where we were and come up short, it's disheartening for us," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "I don't think it falls on any one guy -- we just didn't do what we had to do offensively or defensively."

The Panthers could sense the momentum changing as Pittsnogle hit two 3-pointers and a jumper in a 90-second span to help cut a 14-point Pitt lead with 9:29 remaining to 62-60, and they suddenly began rushing shots and making careless turnovers. J.D. Collins' driving layup with 2:28 remaining tied it at 62, and Pittsnogle's shot with 1:09 remaining put West Virginia ahead to stay at 66-64.

"It's why people love college basketball," West Virginia coach John Beilein said. "You can expect the unexpected at any time. The ball didn't bounce our way until the last five minutes, then everything went our way."

Especially Pittsnogle's.

"I tried to let the game come to me," said Pittsnogle, who is from Martinsburg, W.Va. "I rushed a lot of shots in the first half and took some bad shots."

Pittsnogle added two free throws with 26 seconds remaining, just before Patrick Beilein -- the coach's son -- intercepted Chevon Troutman's carelessly thrown pass following Antonio Graves' missed shot. Beilein also stole the ball on Pitt's next possession before making 1-of-2 free throws. Beilein added 12 points and Johannes Herber had 11.

"They did some trapping on us and we had some careless passes," Dixon said. "We also missed some shots when we had good looks at the basket. It was just a couple of things we came up short on."

The Panthers' six losses are one more than they had while winning 31 games last season.

Troutman led Pitt with 15 points -- he had 40 in the two games against West Virginia -- and Graves added 14. Chris Taft had 10 points and 13 rebounds despite playing only 23 minutes, mostly
because the Panthers switched to smaller defenders to try to shut down West Virginia's outside shooting.

"We've gone smaller with teams that shoot the ball well from the 3-point line, but it didn't work tonight because they continued to hit shots," Dixon said.

The Panthers lost at home for the third time in 16 games -- they lost previously to Bucknell and Georgetown in a four-day span in early January -- after losing only once in their first two seasons at the Petersen Events Center.