Pitt finishes at the Fieldhouse with
best Pitt team to ever play at the Fitzgerald Field House closed the old gym out
with a 92-65 thrashing of their rival West Virginia (8-20, 1-15). The game
nearly became secondary to the festivities that went on before, during, and
With the win Pitt (25-4) tied
their all-time record for wins and tied Connecticut for the Big East overall
regular season title to go along with the West Division title they clinched with
a win at Seton Hall four days earlier. Pitt also finished a school-best 15-1 at
the Field House.
“Not many people thought we
could have the season we’ve had, so I think it was special,” said junior
A sold-out Field House was
treated with great performances by the Pitt backcourt, a dunk contest within the
game, a chance to see over 130 former Pitt players, and the presentation of the
regular season championship trophy by Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese.
Knight continued his terrific
All-Big East season scoring 15 points, dishing out a season-high 14 assists, and
grabbing 6 rebounds. Knight made a final statement with his play in hopes of
winning the Big East Player of the Year Award
which he won 3 days later along with Connecticut’s Caron Butler.
Along with Knight’s
excellent performance, sophomore Julius Page scored a career-high 23 points,
including five 3-pointers.
“We were fired up with all
of the old players there,” Page said. “I had to calm down, because I was
getting too fired up.”
The game also marked the
final home game for Pitt senior forward Chad Johnson. Johnson was honored before
the game with a brain-numbing applause and also with his first start of the
season. Johnson, a Tallahassee native, was by far the most active player on the
floor in his 23 minutes. Johnson had a number of dunks and continuously got his
hands on basketballs that he had no business being near.
While Johnson garnered the
love of his teammates, West Virginia players had no love to share with each
other in their final game of the season. With veteran coach Gale Catlett’s
resignation six games ago, the Mountaineers have become a team in disarray.
Gale’s nephew Drew Catlett
took over the team and failed to appropriately control it.
Jonathan Hargett became disinterested with the game after he failed to receive a
foul call when driving to the basket. Hargett decided to stay seated on the
court while Pitt scored a basket and would not get up until referees stopped the
game believing he was hurt. Hargett refused a helping hand from Pitt’s Julius
Page earning him boos from the raucous crowd every time he touched the
basketball for the rest of the evening.
Hargett also decided to put
in as little effort as possible for the final 12 minutes of the game.
The lone bright spot for West
Virginia was the play of Penn Hills native Drew Schifino. In his homecoming, the
freshman Schifino scored a team-high 20 points and displayed the scoring skills
he used to finish second in scoring in Western Pennsylvania as a senior before
low-test scores delayed his entrance into West Virginia for
a year. The player who did
lead Western Pennsylvania in scoring that year was Pitt freshman Yuri Demetris
who scored the final basket ever in the Field House.
In attendance for the Final
game were Pitt greats such as Don Hennon, Billy Knight, and Charles Smith, the
only three players with their numbers retired for the University of Pittsburgh.
Pitt began play in the
Fitzgerald Field House in 1951-1952 and recorded a 414-176 record there in its
50 seasons. Next season the Panthers will move into the on-campus Peterson
Events Center. The $68 million, 12,500-seat arena will be opened next fall when
Pitt plays cross-town rival Duquesne.
“It was a great ending for
a storied building”, said Pitt coach Ben Howland.
Photo by Ramesh C. Reddy
Former Panther player from the 1920's poses with Pitt
cheerleader Aimee Kotsagrelos as spectators get a picture.