West Virginia fans disrespect the game
J.J. Richardson tries to get a hand in on a rebound pulled down by West Virginia's Devin Ebanks (3) in the first half Wednesday night in Morgantown, W.Va.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Like a winter blizzard that dumps 8 inches of snow, the West Virginia student section poured down chants of "N-I-T! N-I-T!" on the Pitt men's basketball team Wednesday night near the end of its very good team's thorough, 70-51, smack-down of the overmatched Panthers.
If you are a part of the Pitt program or just a fan, you have to hope the students' basketball savvy is just as awful as their abhorrent behavior and that the wayward Panthers still can find their way to a ninth consecutive NCAA tournament despite their fourth loss in five Big East Conference games.
Not all of the students, of course. Most in the West Virginia crowd are as good as any fans in college basketball and continue to make the WVU Coliseum one of the truly special venues for the sport.
I'm talking about the handful of idiots who disrupted the game twice in the second half by throwing objects onto the floor. The obscene chants directed at Pitt coach Jamie Dixon were one thing, as was the derisive jeer directed at the Pitt team, which always is a part of this rivalry. The West Virginia students are developing quite a poor reputation for that sort of thing. They made the national sports news when their obscenities during the Ohio State game Jan. 23 were heard on national television. But as bad as that is, throwing stuff on the floor is much worse. That's reprehensible.
It was bad enough that it happened with 12:10 left in the game after West Virginia's Darryl Bryant was called for a walking violation with Pitt trailing just 43-41. It seemed to be mostly paper cups and the like. Officials Bob Donato, Bryan Kersey and Mike Stephens should have hit the Mountaineers with a technical foul at that point but didn't. Instead, they asked West Virginia coach Bob Huggins to address the crowd of 15,419, the third-largest in Coliseum history.
"Don't throw anything on the floor," Huggins growled. "You're going to hurt one of the players. That's stupid. That is stupid. If you see anyone throw something, point 'em out so we can throw 'em out of here.' "
It was a sincere effort by Huggins. Too bad it didn't work.
With 5:14 to go and Pitt down, 56-44, the Panthers' Nasir Robinson and the Mountaineers' Devin Ebanks got involved in a brief scrum, resulting in technical fouls being called on each. Seconds after, Pitt assistant coach Tom Herrion was struck in the face below his left eye by what those on the Pitt bench said was a quarter. The officials had no choice but to call a technical on West Virginia this time.
Initially, Dixon refused to comment about the fan behavior. Later, he said, "[Herrion] is all right. We're not going to make a big deal about it. I don't want one person's actions to reflect on an entire university."
Unfortunately, it did.
It's a shame, too, because it detracted from a special win by a very special West Virginia team that is ranked No. 6 in The Associated Press poll and moving upward. It was much the better squad in every phase of the game on this cold winter's night.
West Virginia totally outrebounded Pitt after the score was 43-41 -- "We didn't get a rebound after that," Dixon said -- and finished with a 45-31 rebounding edge. It was stunning to see such board dominance against a Pitt team. Traditionally, Dixon's guys are known for their rebounding toughness.
"They simply outworked us. The whole game," Pitt guard Ashton Gibbs said. "We're just not playing Pitt basketball right now."
Added Dixon, "Not many times you can watch a game and see it that clearly. You could see it clear as day and tell why we were beaten."
Defensively, West Virginia held the Panthers to 30.2 percent shooting. Pitt got another horrible shooting night from Gibbs -- 2 for 13 -- whose long slump has moved from troubling to downright frightening. It also didn't get a point from starter Brad Wanamaker and top reserve Gilbert Brown, who shot a combined 0 for 8. They came in averaging a combined 24.1 points per game.
"I don't think any team could overcome that," Dixon said. "We didn't have anyone who played well ... We have to put this behind us. That's what I told the team. We had a bad game. Everybody is going to have this game. We've got to get ready for the next one."
Man, do they.
The home game with Seton Hall Saturday night will be Pitt's most important game to date, by far. Its 5-0 start in Big East play seems like a million years ago. Win against Seton Hall -- a team that beat it in New Jersey Jan. 24 -- and the Panthers should be able to get back on track in time for a rematch against West Virginia at what hopefully will be a tamer Petersen Events Center Feb. 12. But lose and allow the streak to become five defeats in six games?
Well, those "N-I-T!" chants will seem a whole lot more plausible.
First Published February 4, 2010 12:00 am