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Bad Beats: WVU/Pitt Delivers

   by Ben Burns - 02/15/2010

It was smart scheduling to put the West Virginia-Pittsburgh on the Friday before NBA All-Star Weekend.

TV execs were rewarded with a triple-overtime thriller. But those of you who played the Mountaineers weren’t quite as thrilled.

As the highlight of an especially short Friday card, the Big East showdown likely received increased action. The then-fourth ranked Mountaineers opened as three-point favorites. Before the 9 p.m. EST tipoff, the number had dipped to as low as -1 at some outlets, but ended up settling around -2.5 at the majority of books.

Just nine days before, West Virginia had manhandled Pitt, winning by 19 at home. Friday’s game also had rout potential.

Behind a huge night from Da’Sean Butler, Bob Huggins squad controlled most of the game and looked like the better team. Pittsburgh had no answer Butler or Devin Ebanks, both of whom have NBA futures.

The Mountaineers out-rebounded the Panthers by nine in the first half and took a six-point lead into halftime. They extended that lead to 10 early in the second half and stayed out in front throughout the second half.

Pittsburgh closed to within four on an Ashton Gibbs’ 3-pointer with 3:38 to play, but West Virginia quickly had the lead back up seven with just 49 seconds to play.

That’s when Huggins’ team put things on cruise control, a mistake that would end up costing them a Big East victory.

Down the stretch, the Mountaineers missed two front ends of one-on-ones and turned the ball over in their backcourt to give Pittsburgh a chance.

Even then, the Panthers needed a huge break to force the first overtime.

Trailing 68-65 with 28 seconds left, Pitt’s Nasir Robinson stole the inbounds pass. A loose ball ended up headed out of bounds, forcing the Panthers’ Brad Wanamaker, on one foot, to save it to the top of the key. The play ended with Gibbs hitting a tying 3-pointer, but replays seemed to show Wanamaker’s foot was on the out of bounds line. An official was right on top of the play and was looking directly at Wanamaker’s foot, but did not make the call.

West Virginia toyed with bettors’ emotions a little more by missing an opportunity to win the game in regulation. Instead, the Mountaineers settled for overtime and provided anyone who laid the 2.5 points with a chance at salvaging what, just 28 seconds ago, seemed like an easy cover.

In the first overtime, it was Pittsburgh’s turn to torment. The Panthers had a two-point lead with Gibbs, one of the Big East’s top free throw shooters on the line, with only seven seconds left. A 90 percent free throw shooter, Gibbs made the first but missed the second.

West Virginia pushed the ball up quickly, as the Panthers foolishly retreated. West Virginia’s Darryl Bryant hit a three, tying the score and sending into overtime.

We’ve said it before here, and we’ll say it again: You should always foul when leading by 3 with under 10 seconds to play.

Just don’t foul someone who’s attempting a 3-pointer.

That’s exactly what Pitt did in the second overtime. With the Panthers leading by 3 with 20 seconds to play, Pitt’s Gary McGhee fouled Butler, who was attempting a 3-pointer. Butler made all three free throws to force a third overtime.

Pittsburgh faced the same situation in the third overtime. Leading by one with 11 seconds left, Gibb hit a pair of free throws to put Pitt up 3.

Panthers’ coach Jamie Dixon again refused to foul, and Bryant got off a desperation 3-pointer that would sent the game into a fourth overtime. This time, Bryant, who actually had a toe on the 3-point line, missed, and Pittsburgh prevailed 98-95.

Bad beat condolences go out to: USC backers, who had to watch in dismay as the Trojans blew a cover against UCLA on Sunday. USC was giving seven to the visiting Bruins. The Trojans were poised to cover, up 11 with 57 seconds to play, until they went brain dead.

Twice in the final 20 seconds, USC fouled a UCLA player while he was attempting a 3-pointer. The Bruins capitalized on five of the six free throws and ended up losing 68-64. Ugh.

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