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Huggins’ History in The Backyard Brawl During the Big East Era



Friday night’s game between the Pitt Panthers and the West Virginia Mountaineers will be the 187th installment of one of the oldest and fiercest rivalries in collegiate athletics, the Backyard Brawl.

Pitt and WVU first played one another in basketball in 1906, back when Pitt was known as the Western University of Pennsylvania. The two teams played annually from 1918 until the Big East conference realigned in 2012. Through the first 100 meetings, the teams were evenly matched both winning 50 games.

The rivalry got really good during the 2000s. Pitt was very good to start the decade, but two matchups during the 2005-06 season were the first times when the team played each other while they were both ranked. The teams split the series that season, and a few years later WVU hired Bob Huggins, ushering in the modern era of Mountaineers basketball and the Backyard Brawl. Awaiting Huggins was Jamie Dixon and a very good Pitt basketball program.


February 7, 2008 — #21 Pitt 55 – WVU 54

Huggins’ first taste of the rivalry was an eventful one. Pitt won by a single point on a buzzer-beating three from Pitt’s Ronald Ramon. This was after WVU had made free throws points wiped off the board because the officials determined the wrong player had gone to the line.

March 3, 2008 — WVU 76 – Pitt 62

Huggins gets his first win over the Panthers.


January 25, 2009 — #4 Pitt 79 – WVU 67

February 9, 2009 — #4 Pitt 70 – WVU 59

A very good Pitt team sweeps the regular-season series against the Mountaineers.

March 3, 2009, Big East Quarterfinals — WVU 74 – #2 Pitt 60

Led by freshman Devin Ebanks’ 20 points and seven rebounds, the Mountaineers pulled an improbable upset over the top-ranked Panthers. Big East co-player of the year DeJuan Blair spent much of the game on the Pitt bench in foul trouble, scoring only 14 points for the defending Big East champions.


February 3, 2010 — #6 WVU 70 – #22 Pitt 51

West Virginia soundly beat a ranked Pitt team at home but this game is more likely remembered for everything that happened off the court. WVU fans threw things onto the court during the game, injuring a Pitt assistant coach and Huggins had to come over the microphone to tell people to stop.

February 12, 20010 — #25 Pitt 98 – #5 WVU 95

Nine days after having things thrown at them by the WVU home crowd, the Panthers took the Mountaineers to the absolute limit in an all-time Backyard Brawl classic. WVU led by seven with 1:11 left to play but Pitt staged a nearly impossible comeback in regulation and then the two battled through three overtime periods before the game was decided.


February 7, 2011 — #4 Pitt 71 – #25 WVU 66

February 24, 2011 — #4 Pitt 71 – WVU 58


January 30, 2012 — Pitt 72 – WVU 66

February 16, 2012 — WVU 66 – Pitt 48

Huggins’ first win at the Petersen Events Center.

Big East Realignment

Pitt joined the ACC and WVU joined the Big 12. The teams did not play each other for four seasons. Dixon left Pitt in 2016 to coach at his alma-mater TCU.

Friday will be a match-up between rivals who are very much in similar situations. Both rosters are filled with youth and inexperience and both teams are coming off of seasons they would rather forget. Even though the teams do not play each other as often or in as important games, the rivalry is still very much alive. In the Big East, Huggins and Dixon were two very good head coaches coaching two very competitive teams, year in and year out. Dixon led the head to head match-up six to four over Huggins, but both programs have now entered new chapters of their history.

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