The things that had helped West Virginia get to this point in the season didn’t click. WVU wasn’t making shots and, in turn, wasn’t able to consistently set up its full-court pressure and force turnovers. And it wasn’t able to get rebounds and attack the offensive glass as much as it would have liked to clean up its misses the way the Mountaineers have been able to all season.
Meanwhile, things went about as well as they could for the nation’s best team, as Kentucky was able to get out in front and never look back.
The Wildcats wasted no time jumping out against West Virginia, which came out and struggled to get much of anything working offensively against the smothering UK defense.
“They had a game plan and they went by it and they stuck by it. They just had a very balanced night tonight, the whole team,” said sophomore forward Devin Williams. “It was a team effort tonight for them, and that was pretty much it.”
West Virginia made just 5-of-26 shot attempts in the game’s first 20 minutes and, after making its first shot of the game, missed 10 in a row and went through a scoring drought that lasted nearly seven minutes. By the time the Mountaineers saw their second shot go in, Kentucky had jumped out to an 18-4 lead that was just too much for WVU to overcome against a Wildcat team that was able to outman, overplay and outplay the Mountaineers for large chunks of the contest.
That lead would stretch out to as many as 27 points in the first half and Kentucky
“Well, I think (it was) pretty much what I was afraid could happen. They shot the ball really poorly the last game, and they're too good to have a probably back-to-back bad days shooting the ball, and they came out and made a bunch of shots,” said West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins. “We're trying to scramble around and leave the right guy open. They were aggressive, they took it to the basket and we couldn't score, which was my biggest fear was that we would have a hard time scoring.”
The rout didn’t end there, as WVU missed its first 11 attempts from the field to start the second half - a nine-minute slump that ended with a layup that cut the Kentucky lead to 33 points. The lead ended up getting as large as 41 points as West Virginia came up just short of the record for the lowest field goal percentage during a game in the modern era of the NCAA tournament - shooting 24.1 percent from the field.
Senior point guard Juwan Staten was the lone Mountaineer to reach double figures, as he scored 14 points on a 5-for-13 shooting performance. Aside from Staten, West Virginia made just eight shots in the game and shot just 19.5 percent.
Staten and fellow senior guard Gary Browne are the only two seniors who played this season who will not be with the team next year after this 25-win season. As for what the future holds, the Mountaineers are just going to get back to work.
“Every team Coach Huggs has had, every person he’s ever recruited, has been a self-made person who had to get it on their own,” Williams said. “I always had to put the time in myself, I have never really been handed anything.
“This loss, for me, I’m going to take a week off or whatever they give us and I’m just going to get right back at it and that’s all I can do. I can't do anything about it but just get in the gym, watch film and get back at it. It's fuel for me. I've got two more years under my belt. I don't know, I'm going to shoot until my arm falls off.”