WVU Hopes Brawl Beat Down is Spark for Stretch Run - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU Hopes Brawl Beat Down is Spark for Stretch Run

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PITTSBURGH -

A new sight, something that hasn't made an appearance since 2005, graced the floor as Thursday night drew to a close.

The Mountaineers were embracing each other and celebrating at the Petersen Events Center while the home fans continued to move toward the exits, a move they had begun quite some time before the final seconds ran off the clock.

After six-straight losses in the road version of the Backyard Brawl, this feeling was one that no player or coach on the West Virginia bench had yet experienced.

And it felt good.

"It means a lot. We haven't won in this building," Kevin Jones said after another double-double performance. "But that game is over with. We can celebrate it for right now, we've got a long wait ahead of us before we play Notre Dame, so we're going to enjoy these days off, get some rest and then get back to work when we have practice Sunday."

Jones has the response that a senior should give. Great win, glad we got it, now what's next?

After losing five of six games, this was clearly a must-win, as WVU will view each of its remaining regular season games and into the postseason. Getting it over the Panthers in their own gym made it all the more special.

As Truck Bryant followed his teammates off the court, he grabbed ahold of his jersey and held it up so that the "West Virginia" on its front was highlighted.

"We're back!" he said for any who chose to hear.

In the losses that preceded the Brawl, you heard Mountaineer players say over and over that they simply needed to change their mentality from what it had become. They had forgotten what it was like to win with any regularity to the point that they weren't sure how to get back on track.

It wasn't long ago that an overtime win over Providence was supposed to provide exactly the same result, but instead was followed up by another two defeats. This one, though, they really feel can be a building block if only for the simple fact that they've been reminded how to win.

"In basketball, you have one good game and then you find something in yourself. If you look at individually or team-wise, it's the same thing," Deniz Kilicli said. "I'm not saying we didn't have the chemistry [before], but we didn't have this, we were so spread apart… If we stay in this mindset, we will make a run here."

There were signs of growth in a number of areas that led to this 18-point win. A team that averaged just 65.4 percent on free throws throughout the season missed just one of 19 attempts against Pittsburgh.

The three top guards were active on the perimeter and were able to come away with a combined nine steals as the Panthers turned the ball over 17 times.

Four players scored in double digits as Kilicli continues to provide more of an offensive force on a consistent basis than he has in conference play throughout his career.

Bryant, who didn't get the start for the first time all year, made the most of his 32 minutes by not only contributing the second-most points in the game, but also the most offensive rebounds and seven boards in all.

And Gary Browne and Jabarie Hinds, in their second-straight start together, combined for eight assists and just one turnover.

There is room for growth, plenty of it, but that jumpstart that was so desperately needed finally appeared in the unlikeliest of places. Sure, Pittsburgh is down this year, no doubt about that, but a win in this building is precisely what the doctor ordered for a group that has never known this feeling.

And although his fellow senior may have proclaimed the Mountaineers back, Jones cautions not to let any heads swell just from a single night.

"Not winning one game. We've got to keep progressing," says the WVU forward. "We played hard this whole game and we've just got to realize when we play hard, we're a very tough team to beat and we can beat anybody in the country and we've got to keep playing that way."

Time remains to get the season back on track before a trip to New York City, but there are also plenty of opportunities to fall back flat on their faces and let Thursday's win be for naught.

First, a couple days off to consider what it means to be "back" and how to make sure the Mountaineers stay there.

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