Thursday , Mar , 09 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Pittsburgh and West Virginia meet in Big East quarterfinals

(Sports Network) – A Top-25 battle in the Big East quarterfinals
finishes off tournament play this evening, as the 15th-ranked and sixth-
seeded Pittsburgh Panthers battle the 19th-ranked and third-seeded West
Virginia Mountaineers for the right to move on into the semifinals. The
Mountaineers earned a first-round bye thanks to an 11-5 league ledger.
Overall, West Virginia finished the year with a 20-9 record. After a fast
start, the Mountaineers tailed off down the stretch, dropping five of their
last eight games, including a season-ending setback at Cincinnati (78-75).

The Panthers also closed out the regular season on a down note, with two
straight defeats. However, the team rebounded from that with a 61-56 win
over Louisville in yesterday’s opening round. The Mountaineers still hold the
advantage in the all-time series with Pittsburgh, with these two rivals
splitting the season series, each winning on its home floor. West Virginia
has never won this tournament and has a 4-9 record in the event all-time.
Pittsburgh’s lone championship came in 2003 and the team is 17-22 in the
tourney overall. The winner of this game will face the winner of the
Villanova/Rutgers matchup in the semifinals.

The Panthers had a huge lead at halftime against Louisville (39-16), before
the Cardinals made their move in the second half. Still, the Panthers were
able to hold off a feverish run by Rick Pitino’s team to advance in the
tournament, despite not making a single field-goal in the last 13 and a half
minutes of the game. Veteran guard Carl Krauser led the offensive charge,
racking up 19 points, while grabbing seven rebounds. Center Aaron Gray was
once again instrumental in the middle, recording a double-double with 14
points and 13 rebounds. Pittsburgh shot just .380 from the floor in the game,
but held Louisville to .340 shooting, while forcing 14 turnovers.

It has been that formula which has worked so well for the Panthers this
season, as they have held foes to just 63.2 ppg, on .404 shooting.
Krauser is the court-general for Pittsburgh and has the ability to both
score himself (15.4 ppg) and get others involved in the game (team-high 129
assists). Gray is a perfect complement with his dominance down low. The
seven-footer is averaging a double-double with 14.0 points and 10.5 rebounds
per game.

The Mountaineers may have had some lulls this season, but overall, it has been
a successful campaign for the squad from Morgantown. West Virginia placed two
players on the All-Big East First-Team in the form of center Kevin Pittsnogle
and forward Mike Gansey. Pittsnogle is not your typical seven-footer, as the
talented center has plenty of range and the ability to drain the three-point
shot with regularity. He comes into the postseason leading the team in scoring
(19.4 ppg), rebounding (5.8 rpg) and blocked shots (38), while shooting .402
from behind the arc (team-high 78 three-pointers). Gansey is a similar player,
with the ability to play both inside and out. He is netting 17.4 ppg, on a
healthy .563 shooting percentage. Gansey is second on the team in rebounding
(5.6 rpg) and is shooting a scorching .442 from behind the arc (68-of-154).
Point guard Johannes Herber is an adequate scorer (9.6 ppg), but is much
better when dishing the ball off (team-high 131 assists, compared to just 46