Originally written on Pitt Blather  |  Last updated 1/31/12

That’s strange. There’s a weird feeling among Pitt fans and the basketball team. It’s been a couple months since we had this sensation.

Pitt notched its first Big East road win. Coach Dixon moved to 5-4 in games at Morgantown — more wins down there than the previous six head coaches if you are wondering.

Pitt did a very good job defending the 3-point shot (though, the Hoopies own misfires didn’t hurt). The fact that WVU kept hoisting them really helped Pitt. WVU shot 4-19 outside the perimeter (with a 1-11 shooting out there in the second half). From inside, they were 17-33 — Pitt’s 2-pt FG defense still needs a lot of work. A bit of panic by the Eers. Not only did they have much better success going inside — and getting to the free throw line — they were also putting Pitt players in foul trouble.

Nasir Robinson was limited to only 25 minutes because of fouls. Lamar Patterson had to be careful. Zanna struggled on defense. The good news, Dante Taylor both did a nice job on defense. We — I have been hard on both of them, especially for their effort on defense. Last night, they did really good work. Even though, Moore, continues to be in a shooting funk (but at least in this game he tried going towards the hoop at points), he gave the effort and bothered WVU on the perimeter.

The work by Taylor, was especially good in the second half as he stayed on Kilicli, and wore him down.

Kilicli went toe-to-toe with Pitt forwards Talib Zanna and Dante Taylor in the post. He looked strong early, mixing powerful drop steps with soft hook shots. However, Kilicli struggled down the stretch, visibly fatigued, and couldn’t finish in crucial situations.

“I shot horrible,” said Kilicli, who finished 6 of 13 from the floor after a 2 for 10 showing against Syracuse on Saturday. “It’s under 50 percent.”

Taylor was grinding in this game. He worked for the boards and was patient with his chances in the second half. And yes, the WVU  gameplan was to go inside more. The WVU players just didn’t do it.

West Virginia called a number of sets to give their front court good looks. Kilicli made a habit of running off Jones’ screens on the block, which gave the Mountaineers opportunities inside.

“That was our main focus to pound it inside, get something close and get us some easy baskets,” Jones said.

“Once the game starts slipping away, everybody starts panicking,” Kilicli said. “We start doing things we’re not supposed to do, and everybody’s mind goes out of the game.”

Wait a minute. During the losing streak, I thought Pitt wasn’t tough enough — mentally or physically. Too easy to panic. Now, they aren’t.

But West Virginia coach Bob Huggins gave Dixon more. It happened during their postgame handshake and embrace.

“I told Jamie they’re tougher than us,” Huggins recalled. “They out-toughed us.”

What sweet words they were to Dixon.

It’s funny; that’s the exact sentiment the Pitt players had outside of their happy locker room.

“We’re a bunch of fighters on this team, a bunch of winners at that,” guard Tray Woodall said. “We all come from winning programs. That’s why coach Dixon recruited us. We’re not used to losing and we don’t like it. We’re always going to keep fighting.”

A week ago, that would have seemed like so much hot air.

Now Pitt is  the tougher, hungrier team?

Those of you who have done the liveblogs where I have been around during the losing streak, probably know how irritated I would get when someone would call the team soft and not mentally tough. They were playing poorly. They were frustrated. They were without Woodall. A lot was going wrong. But I consider the “toughness” argument as silly as the “they wanted it more” claim that even Nas would trot out after some losses. Effort, desire, will, chemistry, even toughness can be a difference when all other things are equal, and maybe even when things are not equal for one game. But when things like injuries, skill and ability are not equal; the intangibles matter a lot less over the course of a season.

The primary story, though was Tray Woodall carrying the team in the first half. Unlike the Georgetown game where Pitt raced out to the lead and never gave it back, Pitt took a big shot from WVU early. The Hoopies raced out to a 17-9 lead and looked like they had Pitt’s offense bottled up. Pitt battled back to show that this game would be tight. That it would be a brawl. Both teams would go back-and-forth to the end.

Then Tray happened. In the final 6:32 of the first half he scored 13 of Pitt’s final 18 points to take a 33-29 lead into the lockerroom. A lead Pitt never relinquished.

“I’m confident in myself that I can get it going,” Woodall said. “I’m a creative point guard first. But at the same time I’m a leader, and if my team needs me to step up and score some baskets, I try to do that for them.”

Pitt sorely needed it after scoring just nine points in the first 12 minutes of the half. The Panthers scored 24 points over the final eight minutes, and they never looked back once they took a 30-29 lead with 48 seconds to go before halftime.

“That’s a big plus when he does that,” senior forward Nasir Robinson said of Woodall’s shooting ability.

“When he gets it going like that it’s huge.”

“He came out and played his heart out,” junior center Dante Taylor said.

“He was doing everything he worked on in the offseason tonight. He was doing that dribble and step-back 3. I’m happy for him.”

The one thing that has become clear, is that this Pitt squad is Woodall’s team. Not Gibbs. Not Nas. Those two are team leaders, but it is from their work-ethic and how hard they go in practice and games.  Woodall is the guy the rest of the team looks to set things up. To make everyone know what will happen. To talk to them. Make them know where they should be and that they will be rewarded for doing it.

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Red Sox GM: 'Time to think about' team being sellers

Cardinals fire scouting director in hacking scandal fallout

Report: Lakers to get second meeting with LaMarcus Aldridge

Antonio Gates suspended four games for violating drug policy

Tim Duncan officially returning to Spurs for another season

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Rolando McClain suspended four games for substance abuse

Jets' Richardson suspended four games for violating drug policy

Report: Aldridge not impressed with Lakers' branding pitch

Toronto column after trade details Kessel's love of hot dogs

A-Rod, Yankees, union in talks to donate HR bonus to charity

Dez Bryant, Cowboys reportedly on verge of contract extension

76ers on winning side of atrocious salary dump by Kings

Bama players admitted they didn’t respect OSU QB Jones heading into CFB playoff

Solo, Rapinoe among USWNT stars up for World Cup awards

Report: Heat re-sign Wade to one-year, $20M contract

Larry Brown Sports on Sports Jeopardy! Here's how it went

A-Rod on desire to make All-Star Game: ‘I’d walk to Cincinnati’

Landing Monta Ellis puts Pacers back in title-chasing pack

Bryce Harper snaps another selfie with fans before game

Putting Chris Sale’s strikeout streak in historical perspective

Chargers job listing: Applicants must be open to move to LA

College football's 35 most patriotic helmets

TUF weekly recap by NOS® Energy Drink

College Basketball News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Solo, Rapinoe among USWNT stars up for World Cup awards

LBS on Sports Jeopardy! Here's how how it went

College football's 35 most patriotic helmets

A brief history of non-star All-Stars

With Love retained, the Cavs can take care of LeBron

Grading the deal: Davis commits to Pelicans

Obama Administration: Change name if Redskins move to D.C.

Deciding what the All-Star Game means

Odell Beckham Jr. offered professional baseball contract

Orioles keep finding a way to win

Lloyd sends USWNT to World Cup final

Selecting the 2015 AL All-Stars

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.