The Pitt-UConn rivalry is really only 12 years old, and in the grand scheme of things that's pretty young. Sure, the two teams played before 1998, but a game between the Huskies and the Panthers was rarely more significant than a game between, say, UConn and Seton Hall. That obviously has changed, and before tonight's Big Monday matchup, I'd like to once again revisit the glorious start of this little feud.
The day was December 12, 1998. The Huskies, who were ranked No. 1 at the time, had traveled to the Fitzgerald Field House to face down the Panthers. It was a wild night and Pitt students had spent it raining down slurs on UConn's sophomore point guard Khalid El-Amin. The rowdy Panther fans were in especially good spirits late. Pitt was up four with about 10 seconds to go and the student section was pushing forward to rush the court. But then, magic.
With nine seconds left, Albert Mourning hit a fade-away 3 to bring the Huskies within one point. Seconds later, El-Amin stole an inbounds pass, raced down the court and laid in the winning bucket. That's the type of finish that makes a great game, but what El-Amin did next is what starts a great rivalry. The portly, mouthly guard raced over toward the student section, jumped onto the scorers table and made the No. 1 sign with his hand. The student section responded by firing water bottles at him. Jim Calhoun quickly pulled his point guard down and El-Amin did eventually apologize, but on that day, a rivalry was born.
Note: Every year when UConn plays Pitt I search in vain to find either a photo of El-Amin on the scorer's table or video from the game and always come up short. If any kind soul out there has either, please send it my way.