MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The men’s basketball version of the Backyard Brawl is a rivalry that dates back to 1906.
West Virginia has an all-time lead (100-88) in the series, and it’s one of the most-anticipated games on the Mountaineers’ schedule any year it is on the schedule.
The rivalry, of course, hasn’t been a year in, year out occurrence since the two programs left the Big East for separate conferences last decade. After the game wasn’t able to be played during the 2020-21 season, it returned on this season’s slate.
The fans returned, too. More than 14,000 of them packed a sold-out Coliseum crowd. The passion and excitement that the longtime rivalry matchup brings returned, as well. Another win against the Panthers came with it all, as the Mountaineers won 74-59, marking WVU’s second-straight 15-point win over Pitt.
For an in-state player, who grew up watching the rivalry from just a few exits down I-79, it’s part of the lore of donning the Flying WV on his jersey.
“It means the world to represent this state at one of the highest levels of college basketball,” said Jalen Bridges after participating in the rivalry game for the first time in his career. “Playing against Pitt, that’s the Backyard Brawl. It goes back years and years and years. So, being able to being able to get that going this year after we missed out on it last year, because of COVID, man it was a surreal feeling.”
Bridges scored a game-high 18 points, grabbed a team-best six rebounds, and collected five blocks against the Panthers. He knocked down four 3-pointers in the game.
He also was responsible for the play of the night, which he says even he can’t stop watching.
Bridges was on the Mountaineers’ squad in 2019 for the last meeting between the two rivals, but was redshirting that season.
All but two of WVU’s players were seeing the Backyard Brawl up close for the first time Friday. Sean McNeil and Taz Sherman had both played against the Panthers in 2019, which resulted in a 68-53 win for WVU.