Backyard Brawl Lives Up To Its Name
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Backyard Brawl lived up to its name on Saturday as West Virginia scored a “technical” knockout of Pitt, 69-59.
This wasn’t a basketball game. It was a fist fight.
With brass knuckles and blackjacks.
“Down goes Konate … down goes Konate … down goes Konate.”
Pitt and West Virginia played like they were wearing boxing gloves.
Come to think of it, maybe that’s why Pitt had 24 turnovers and WVU had 26 … 50 turnovers in all. The 26 turnovers were the most since losing to Syracuse in 2002, with Jonathan Hargett suffering seven of the turnovers.
And you might as well toss in 49 combined total fouls, including two double technicals and one called on the Panthers’ coach Jeff Capel.
They shouldn’t have had a buzzer at the end of the half and the game but, instead, a bell.
The only thing flying off in more directions than bodies were basketballs, which were being thrown away, bounced away, kicked away or simply just double dribbled.
This was West Virginia basketball, sometimes even “Press Virginia” basketball.
It was Sagaba Konate’s kind of basketball.
In midweek, it was uncertain Konate would play because of his right knee problems. But he had a good practice Friday, warmed up well on Saturday and while Coach Bob Huggins brought him in off the bench it only served to get him going.
“I tricked you, didn’t I?” Huggins said to the media after the game
Who tricked who, because moments later Huggins was talking about when he said Konate wouldn’t play and said, “What’s today? Wednesday?”
No, Coach, he was assured. It’s Saturday.
The seven blocks were enough to give Konate 191 for his career, breaking the record set by D’Or Fischer in his two-year career at WVU.
“It means a lot to me,” Konate admitted.
While his last block set the record, his next-to-last block that tied it was the one that had everyone in the crowd of 13,670 buzzing as they left the Coliseum.
Trey McGowens had come down the floor on a fast break and went up for a dunk but Konate had him measured all the way, went up with a perfectly timed jump and not only blocked the shot with two hands, but took it out of McGowens’ hands.
Konate admitted the atmosphere with the rivalry, the crowd, the physicality of the game and all had gotten himself and others hyped up.
“It was a home game, everyone was fired up” Konate said. “The fans, that gets us going. We really need that.”
“Personally, I know it’s a rivalry game. I know how everyone feels about Pitt, but it’s a big game in general,” Chase Harler, who comes out of the West Virginia northern panhandle, said. “Things were getting kind of chippy early. You expect that.
“We kind of needed that. It got us going again. I think we threw the first punch today.”
It was Bolden, who wound up the game’s top scorer with 18 points, who delivered that first punch with a 3, but moments later he found himself on the bench with his second foul.
And both teams floundered as he sat until he finally went to Huggins and said “Put me in, Coach. You can trust me not to get my third foul.”
He lived up to his promise and made it through the half and helped the Mountaineers to a 12-point lead they protected to the finish, although it did get dicey toward the end as Pitt got to eight points.
But Bolden took over there with a coast-to-coast lay up and then, after Konate set the block record, making consecutive dishes off to the big man for dunks that the lead to 16 points.
West Virginia goes to 6-3, Pitt to 7-3 with the Mountaineers taking the week off for finals, then playing Rhode Island on Dec. 16 at the Mohigan Sun Casino in Connecticut.