West Virginia has always had a complicated relationship with Pittsburgh. 

In a state without a single major pro sports team, West Virginians lean toward the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates as their surrogate superheroes. 

And there’s a fondness for the city itself. 
From Morgantown, Pittsburgh is an easy 70-mile hop over the Mason-Dixon Line where a quick, refreshing getaway awaits.

But, for the hardcore Mountaineer fan, there’s a downside to the city. It is home to Pitt, as in the University of Pittsburgh Panthers, the most hated rival of West Virginia University.

On Saturday (Dec. 9), the familiar foes reunited and it felt so good, at least for one team. It had been nearly six years since the last men’s basketball “Backyard Brawl,” a catchy, gimmicky name for the WVU-Pitt rivalry that sounds more like a no-holds-barred wrestling match. (According to John Antonik in this comprehensive look back at the rivalry, the “Backyard Brawl” was coined by a Pittsburgh Press sports writer in the 1970s.) 

On the basketball court, WVU and Pitt have clashed 185 times in 106 years. Their last meeting came Feb. 16, 2012, when the Mountaineers topped the Panthers 66-48. But then things changed. The local rivals, both members of the Big East, usually played one another twice a year. But then it all changed when the original Big East slowly dissolved. WVU joined the Big 12 and Pitt joined the Atlantic Coast Conference. 

Bye bye regional conference rival. That is until Saturday night at the Petersen Events Center in a mostly convincing 69-60 WVU win, keeping the all-time series in the Mountaineers’ favor at 97-88. And it continues in 2018, when Pitt will travel to Morgantown for battle. 

For some fans, those complicated feelings about Pittsburgh emerged once again, yet, for the most part, their aversion to the Pitt Panther and its inferior shade of gold-and-blue has always remained simmering.