WVU’s Best Had Highs, Lows vs. Pitt
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It was 1975, Dec. 3, an introduction to The Backyard Brawl for Bob Huggins.
It was a home game, and home games then at the Coliseum weren’t what they are now, for only 8,962 fans were on hand.
Turned out, as it always should when West Virginia and Pitt get together as they do tonight up in Pittsburgh for the first time since 2012, to be a classic.
The game went to overtime: Mountaineers won, 72-68.
Huggins had 13 points, but wasn’t in at the end. He fouled out.
“I don’t remember fouling out,” he says today. “Must have been horrible calls.”
Huggins came to be a target for Pitt fans in the eight games he played in the rivalry. He played the game hard, some Pitt people argued dirty, but there is no such thing as dirty playing when Pitt and WVU get together.
That’s why it’s called a “brawl.”
West Virginia won six of those eight games, with Huggins averaging 10.8 points a game, scoring in double figures six times, once dishing out seven assists and another time pulling down nine rebounds.
He played against Pitt like he wants his players to play against the Panthers.
They say great players play best in the biggest games.
The Backyard Brawl was always a big game, so how did WVU’s great players play against Pitt?
Not as good as you might think.
We’ll start with the greatest of all time, Jerry West, “The Logo.”
West played against Pitt six times. West never scored 30 points against the Panthers, averaging 25.4 points a game. He rebounded probably better than he scored, pulling down 22 in one game, 18 in another.
Of course, few realize it, but West is WVU’s all-time leading rebounder despite being only 6-foot-4 and playing only three years.
West shot only 42 percent from the field against Pitt while shooting 50 percent for his career, his first game having him hit 8 of 22, then 11 of 30 in another and 5 of 17 in a third game.
If West didn’t rise to the top of his game against Pitt, Hot Rod Hundley, who is memorialized in the other statue outside the Coliseum, sure did as he had plenty of chances to score.
Hundley got his points. He averaged 33.3 points a game against Pitt including games of 40, 39, 35 and 32 points.
But he also got off his shots …. 37 in his first game against Pitt, making just nine of them; 30 in his second game against the Panthers and 35 in yet another.
Yes, Hundley was hardly shy. He holds the school career record for shots taken at 2,218, more than 600 more than Jerry West, who was second, and he has the first, second and fourth most shots in a season, taking 814 and 756 and 645 in three different years.
Rod Thorn is probably third in the triumvirate of Mountaineer basketball gods, but other than a 30-point performance against Pitt in the first game 1962, he was below his average, Thorn averaging 21.8 for his career but just 16.4 against Pitt.
Wil Robinson was also one of the most prolific of West Virginia’s scorers at the start of the 1970s and he did his thing as expected through his first five games against Pitt, averaging 20 a game.
But Pitt couldn’t know that Robinson had saved his best for last. His final game was at the Coliseum against Pitt and dropped 42 on the Panthers, hitting 14 of 28 field goals and 14 of 17 free throws.
It is the most points any Mountaineer ever scored against Pitt.
The 42 points are not a Coliseum record. That is 45 points scored in a game … but Robinson shouldn’t fret. He was the one who scored the 45 points against Penn State a year earlier, one of two 45-point games in his career.
More modern, however, is Da’Sean Butler’s performance. Butler, of course, once scored 43 points in a Coliseum game, that being against Villanova in the Big East days of 2009.
Against Pitt, though, Butler was up and down, once scoring four points on just 2 for 12 shooting and once scoring six points with 1 of 9 shooting, but like Robinson saving his best for last, scoring 32 in his final game against the Panthers while also pulling down 11 rebounds.
One of the players the Pitt fans most liked to get on was Kevin Pittsnogle, who also had problems against Pitt, shooting 3 for 10 in one game, 1 for 9 in another and 0 for 12 in a dismal performance in 2006.
Do fans make a difference? They may, considering that at the Coliseum, Pittsnogle averaged 16.3 points a game to 10 at the Petersen Events Center and shot 40.9 percent at home and 28.1 percent at Pitt