Do you believe in miracles?
Twice in the same season?
Pitt pulled off another miraculous comeback to beat West Virginia 98-95 in triple overtime Friday night at the Petersen Events Center.
And believe it or not, this one was better than the first. Much better.
Pitt erased a seven-point deficit in the final 45 seconds of regulation to force overtime, and outlasted the Mountaineers in a game that see-sawed back and forth in the game's final 15 minutes.
This game came less than a month after Pitt erased a five-point deficit in the final minute against Louisville and won in overtime.
"It's funny," said Pitt junior Gilbert Brown. "We were talking today about how this is a great rivalry and it's always a great game. I never thought we would have another game like the Louisville game, but we did tonight."
It was the first time that Pitt played in a game that went to triple overtime since 1976.
Brown scored the winning points on two free throws with 28.8 seconds left in the third overtime. Those two free throws gave Pitt a 96-95 lead. West Virginia sophomore Devin Ebanks missed a shot on West Virginia's next possession. Gary McGhee rebounded and got the ball into the hands of Ashton Gibbs, who was fouled. Gibbs made both free throws for a 98-95 lead with 11.8 seconds left.
It was a bit of redemption for Gibbs, who missed a free throw with seven seconds remaining in the first overtime period.
"I have enough confidence in myself that I think I'm going to make every shot I take," Gibbs said. "I forgot the last miss and just went onto the nexst one."
Pitt (19-6, 8-4) moved into a three-way tie for third place in the Big East standings with West Virginia and Georgetown.
The Panthers improved to 6-0 all-time at the Petersen Events Center against top-five teams at the Petersen Events Center.
"I'm very, very proud of our guys," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "We didn't play great, but we played with heart and character."
By the end, it was a war of attrition. Pitt had two starters and a reserve foul out. Jermaine Dixon fouled out near the end of regulation. Brad Wanamaker and Travon Woodall fouled out in overtime.
"[Our players] probably did a better job of keeping their composure than our fans," Jamie Dixon said. "After that, you have to wonder???But Gilbert came up big. He really made some big plays for us down the stretch. That was key for us."
Wanamaker and Gibbs led Pitt with 24 points apiece.
Da'Sean Butler led West Virginia with 32 points.
The game had 12 lead changes and was tied 12 times.
Pitt looked like it had the game won in the first overtime. But after Gibbs missed his second shot from the foul line with seven seconds left, Darryl Bryant came down and drilled a 3-pointer to force the second overtime.
Pitt looked like it had the game won again in the second overtime. The Panthers led by three with 20 seconds remaining, but Gary McGhee fouled Butler on a 3-point attempt. Butler made all three foul shots to force the third overtime.
"You have to give Pitt a lot of credit," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. "They didn't fold. But they wouldn't have won the game without a lot of help from us."
That help came in the form of three missed free throws in the final minute of regulation.
West Virginia led 66-59 before Gibbs made a jumper with 45 seconds remaining.
The Panthers cut the lead to three after two Woodall free throws, but Bryant made two more foul shots for a 68-63 lead with 34 seconds left.
Woodall cut the lead to three again with 29 seconds to go, and Pitt forced a turnover on the inbounds play. Wanamaker saved the ball from going out of bounds. A few seconds later, Woodall found Gibbs in the corner, and Gibbs drained the game-tying 3-pointer from the corner with 22 seconds remaining.
"I thought I was out of bounds," Wanamaker said. "But the refs let the play go. And gratefully, it went to a teammate."
Pitt won despite being outrebounded 51-44. The Panthers received 34 points from its bench compared to only seven for West Virginia. The Panthers were 31 for 42 from the foul line.
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com or 412-263-1230 First Published February 13, 2010 5:15 AM