The one that got away.
That's the only way the West Virginia Mountaineers could describe the 98-95 triple-overtime loss to Pitt at the Petersen Events Center last night.
The Mountaineers dominated the first 39 minutes of the game, held a seven-point lead and had the ball with less than a minute to play and yet somehow found a way to lose.
"The feeling in my stomach is sick; it is disgusting," said West Virginia point guard Darryl "Truck" Bryant. "We're up seven points, with a minute left -- that's a game we are supposed to win every single time and we didn't. We missed free throws, turned the ball over, there is no reason for it -- we're supposed to win that game."
So just how did the Mountaineers lose it?
They did everything wrong in the final minute of regulation, starting with Bryant missing the front end of a one-and-one with 57 seconds to play and the Mountaineers leading, 66-59.
Despite that, Kevin Jones grabbed an offensive rebound and passed the ball to Da'Sean Butler, who was fouled with 50 seconds to play. But Butler missed the front end of his one-and-one opportunity and the Panthers responded with a jumper by Ashton Gibbs.
Still, West Virginia was up by five points, but once again, Butler missed the front end of a one-and-one with 43 seconds to play.
Then Joe Mazzulla fouled Tavon Woodall, giving the Panthers two free points with the clock stopped.
West Virginia finally hit two free throws -- Bryant -- to bring its lead to five points with 35 seconds left but allowed Woodall to drive right down the lane to pull the Panthers within three points.
Bryant then turned the ball over, Gibbs tied the score with a 3-pointer with 22 seconds to play, and then Bryant missed a driving layup with three seconds left and the game went into overtime.
"When you miss free throws and fumble it around like that, you allow the other team to stay in the game," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. "And then, we turn it over and everybody in the gym knows they want Gibbs to shoot it -- including our guys -- and we let him shoot and tie the game.
"Give Pitt credit, they didn't fold and continued to play hard, but they couldn't have won this game without a lot of help from us. I mean, when a team comes back like that, they have to get some help from the other team, and we gave them a lot of help."
The Mountaineers had opportunities in overtime to win the game, too, but they couldn't ever throw a knockout punch, mostly because they struggled to stop the Panthers from scoring.
But the game never should have gotten that far because the Mountaineers, who have now lost two in a row, had the game won and then let the Panthers off the hook.
"We had the game won and let them back in it with stupid mistakes," said Jones. "We let a perfect opportunity to win on the road go to waste. It was our fault, totally our fault."
Added Bryant: "We'll be thinking about those free throws for a long time. I mean, that's free throws, they are supposed to be free and that is what lost the game. We have nobody to blame but ourselves. We gave the game away and it is our fault."
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1720. First Published February 13, 2010 7:30 AM