Playing To Its Opponent

When West Virginia took the court vs. Syracuse, I hadn't heard more doubters of the Mountaineers in a long time.

After the ugly loss to St. John's earlier in the week, it made sense. WVU went from being around a three-seed in the NCAA tournament to a bubble team by a couple experts, and it wasn't looking good.

It's tough to rebound against a team as good as No. 4 Syracuse. But that was the task at hand.

And, it makes sense that a Bob Huggins-coached teams had no trouble playing up to its opponent.

WVU lost 63-61 to Syracuse after a controversial call in the final minute. The referees missed a goaltending call on a shot by junior forward Deniz Kilicli that would've tied the game at 63, and the Mountaineers were unable to score in the last six seconds to earn its second straight loss.

It was such an awful ending to a rather impressive performance by the Mountaineers. And the sad thing is, WVU is now 5-4 in the Big East Conference, and it won't get any easier.

West Virginia has to learn how to play up in every game.

Sure, it just missed out on its first win at the Carrier Dome in 16 years, but it's much bigger than that in the scheme of things.

It was obvious in Madison Square Garden that the Mountaineers didn't want to play against St. John's. There was no focus or intensity, and honestly I don't blame the Mountaineers all that much. The crowd was non-existent and the Red Storm was one of the worst teams in the Big East prior to that game.

It's still unacceptable – and Huggins said as much after the game.

With about 10 minutes to play, WVU tied the game at 45 on a hook shot by Kilicli. Prior to that, Jones finished a layup after two offensive rebounds. WVU was giving effort it didn't have against the Red Storm.

After going scoreless in the first half, senior guard Truck Bryant and Kilicli played well in the second half, and that seemed to spark some of the younger players. It received contributions from players like freshman guard Gary Browne that it definitely needed.

The Mountaineers are a young group. Players like Browne and fellow freshman point guardJabarie Hinds and others like freshmen Aaron Brown and Keaton Miles and junior college transfer Dominique Rutledge haven't played tough games like this back-to-back-to-back-to-back.

It's the Big East, and there's a learning curve.

The trouble is, it doesn't get much easier two days from now. Sure, Pittsburgh is 1-7 in Big East play, but the Panthers aren't that bad.

WVU needs to do its part – and maybe officials will do the same. The battle now is to win games it has to win at home and on the road to make its way to the NCAA tournament.


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