PITTSBURGH - Pitt managed to recover from a first half in which it trailed West Virginia 31-30 Thursday night by doing what the Panthers do best.
They went back to work on the basics inside and started making shots from everywhere.
It all added up to a 71-58 win for the No. 4 Panthers over West Virginia, a defeat that once again prevents the Mountaineers from climbing out of the quicksand that is the middle of the Big East standings.
"We just tried not to let them get near the post,'' Pitt's Nasir Robinson said. "We just pushed them outside with our chests.''
Indeed, in a game between the same teams 21/2 weeks ago, West Virginia got 19 points from center Deniz Kilicli. Thursday he took one shot and fouled out in 12 minutes.
Just as significantly, West Virginia managed 10 first-half points in the paint while taking leads of as many as seven points, but then was outscored 24-4 inside in the second half.
Also guard Truck Bryant, who broke out of a prolonged shooting slump and had 24 last weekend against Notre Dame, scored just eight for WVU.
"It was a goal of ours to defend the post better than we did the last time,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "And Bryant had 24 against Notre Dame, broke that game open with four 3-pointers in the second half and made his foul shots. We wanted to try to make sure he didn't have those opportunities against us.''
There was a rather spirited debate Thursday on the Big East's weekly coaches' teleconference about who the league's player of the year might be.
The winner? Well, there was none.
And chances are when the award is announced between the end of the regular season and the start of the Big East tournament on March 8, the debate will continue. There are so many candidates and, while most are stepping up at the end of the season, no one is really separating himself from the pack.
"It definitely is a more wide open race than last year. Last year everyone had to choose between [Syracuse's Wes Johnson and Villanova's Scottie Reynolds],'' said Villanova coach Jay Wright, whose guard lost out to the Syracuse forward for the honor. "I really haven't thought about who I would vote for at this point. I think the strength of the Big East this year is that every team has a great leader, but they're not one man teams.''