MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – On Friday night, West Virginia will host Pitt inside the WVU Coliseum, for the 188th edition of the Backyard Brawl.
This is the first time since 2019 that the two schools square off once again. The matchup in 2020 was canceled due to schedule conflicts with COVID.
The Mountaineers (1-0) are coming off of an ugly win against Oakland on Tuesday night, 60-53. Many questions about the team are still needing to be answered. Who’s going to step up and rebound? Who’s going to step up and make more shots? A lot of stepping up needed from this season’s West Virginia team.
Taz Sherman is one of those players that has stepped up, replacing the role that Miles McBride had on the team last season. Sherman, taking more play calling responsibilities, scored 18 points on 7-of-18 shooting against Oakland.
Sherman played 37 minutes on Tuesday night, which is going to be a common occurrence if the Mountaineers are in close games. Sherman, and his teammate Gabe Osabuohien, have been the most valuable players for the Mountaineers for the early season. They’ll have to be on the floor as much as possible for WVU to stay competitive against great teams.
As the Backyard Brawl has been revived after a one-season pause, Sherman, Osabuohien and Sean McNeil are the only three Mountaineers that have played in the historic rivalry.
“Nobody’s came up to me and asked but I think that when they decided to come here, they knew what this game was about or had an idea what it was about,” McNeil said. “After practice [Wednesday] and [Thursday], I think they’ll have a pretty good idea of what it’s going to be like, so, I know they’re excited.”
One of the new players is fifth-year senior Dimon Carrigan. Carrigan is a transfer from Florida International, who has been very good on interior defense so far. Carrigan had six points, six rebounds and three blocks, in 15 minutes of play against Oakland.
How quickly did Carrigan hear about the Backyard Brawl? His very first day at West Virginia, his new teammates were talking about it in the locker room.
“The first day I got here, they brought up the rivalry between Pitt and West Virginia,” Carrigan said. “I do know it’s very important, so I’m trying to get us a W.”
Pitt (0-1) is coming off a loss to The Citadel, as the Panthers fell 78-63. As Pitt only managed to score 63 points, they had two players score 20 points or more in the loss. John Hugley finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds to give him a great individual start to the season. Guard Femi Odukale had 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field.
A lot of injuries and a suspension to Ithiel Horton, after assaulting a police officer, have put Jeff Capel and the Panthers in a deep, dramatic hole already.
“They’re intriguing,” Huggins said. “They’ve got great size, their guards are big. [John] Hugley is a guy that I know well.”
Huggins is right, a lot of Pitt’s roster is 6-foot-5 to 6-foot-9 guards. They run a tall lineup, which could give the Mountaineers some trouble on the rebounding tally, once again.
As both WVU and Pitt have their early struggles, it will be nice for both schools to resume their rivalry with each other.
The 188th Backyard Brawl is set to take place on Friday, in the WVU Coliseum. Tip-off is set for 8:30 p.m., on ESPNU.
(Top Photo: Julia Mellett – WVSN)