Konate’s Block Party Sets Record
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Given the rate at which he was blocking shots through his first seven games of the season, there wasn’t a watch party underway for Sagaba Konate and his pursuit of West Virginia’s career blocked shots record on Saturday afternoon.
Coming in to the renewal of the Backyard Brawl with Pitt, Konate had 15 rejections on the season, an average of 2.1 per game. Limited time on the court due to a balky knee, as well as unwillingness on the part of many teams to challenge him inside, had combined to drop his average a bit this year. Add in the fact that his availability was in question due to some comments from head coach Bob Huggins, and there wasn’t a countdown tracker or a thought that this could be the day he’d pass D’or Fischer on WVU’s all-time list, whom he trailed by six as the teams tipped off.
It remained that way through the first half, even after Konate book-ended an excellent block by Esa Ahmad with one of his own at the 1:52 mark that led to a WVU lay-up and a 34-21 lead. Then the switch flipped.
The second half featured a block party that was the equal of any ever seen on Grant Avenue. Konate swatted away shots at 18:02, 15:49, 10:41 and 9:37, the tied the record at 6:16 when he took the ball right out of the hands of Pitt’s Trey McGowens at the rim with one of his signature two-handed stuffs. That the tying rejection came on such a play was certainly fitting, as it will be just those plays for which he will be long-remembered by WVU hoop fans.
Then to cap it off, Konate again brushed Gowens aside at the 3:54 mark, turning away an ill-advised dunk attempt for his seventh of Wilsonburger of the game. That gave him 191 on his career, pushing him past Fischer’s previous mark of 190.
Konate said the career record meant a lot to him, and it’s a number that he will certainly build upon through the rest of this year. In the short term, though, his dominance of the lane on the defensive end had a huge impact in getting the much-needed win over Pitt. The Panthers had at least another 3-4 shots inside that missed due to Konate’s presence, which forced high-arcing or awkward shots to keep them away from his block radius. Pitt made just nine of its 33 second half field goal attempts, so credit Konate directly with at least eight of those misses.
The game marked the fourth time in which Konate has blocked seven or more shots in a contest. He hit that number against Kentucky and Baylor last year, and tied WVU’s single-game mark of nine (shared with Fischer) against Baylor. Only he, Jon Flowers, Joe Alexander and Marcus Goree have blocked as many as seven shots in a Mountaineer game since records of that statistic have been kept.