Pittsburgh pushing for rebound performance vs. West Virginia

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December 25 2021 12:00 am

Pittsburgh will look to enter the win column for the first time in 2021-22 when it visits West Virginia in the latest edition of the Backyard Brawl in Morgantown, W.Va., on Friday night.

The Panthers (0-1) dropped a 78-63 season-opening decision to The Citadel on Tuesday night. Jason Roche connected on eight 3-pointers for the Bulldogs, who beat an ACC team for the first time since 1979.

Pitt, which fell behind 27-9 and could not get closer than nine points, was playing short-handed as the team lost its leading scorers from a year ago ahead of the season opener.

Nike Sibande was sidelined for the season due to a knee injury suffered in an exhibition win, while Ithiel Horton was suspended indefinitely after allegedly assaulting a Pittsburgh police officer. Making matters worse, Texas Tech transfer point guard Jamarius Burton is recovering from knee surgery, so his impending debut is considered a day-to-day decision.

Panthers head coach Jeff Capel had only nine scholarship players available for the opener. He said he is eager to get back in the gym and help rebuild a team that lost six players from last season.

“Some of (the poor play) is rooted in inexperience,” Capel said after the loss. “But we have to be better. We will be better.”

John Hugley led the Panthers with 27 points and 10 rebounds, while Femi Odukale recorded 20 points in the loss.

Meanwhile, West Virginia (1-0) overcame poor shooting and sloppiness at the offensive end to hold on for a 60-53 home victory over Oakland on Tuesday night. Taz Sherman scored 18 points, and Sean McNeil provided some badly needed outside shooting for the Mountaineers, who built a double-digit lead early in the second half but looked sluggish down the stretch.

The X-factor for West Virginia was Gabe Osabuohien, who provided much-needed energy on both ends of the floor and helped lead a defensive effort that created 25 Golden Grizzlies turnovers.

“He brings great energy and a great understanding of how to play,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said after the win. “He brings so much enthusiasm and so much ‘want to.'”

Still, questions remain about the ability of the Mountaineers to consistently rebound and score inside with Derek Culver no longer in Morgantown. They were outrebounded by the Grizzlies 48-33. WVU also must improve from beyond the arc after going just 4-of-21 in the opener.

–Field Level Media

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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