From Competitve to Just Watching

There are two pattersn for Mountaineer men's basketball games this year, and unfortunately WVU displayed the latter in their 88-58 loss to UConn on Saturday.

Scenario One for WVU is a closely contested game where WVU typically reels off one big scoring run, gives up another, but keeps the game competitive and relatively close throughout. In a credit to the Mountaineer team, they've won more than their share of these types of games this year, and as a result are still in the hunt for an NIT berth.

Scenario Two, fortunately a more rare occurence, was played out during WVU's two-part game against UConn on Saturday. The Mountaineers were right in the game for almost thirty minutes, but then folded as UConn scored almost at will over the final ten minutes for a thirty point margin of victory. UConn totalled 52 points in the second half to just 27 for WVU, turning what was at least an interesting game into a blowout.

Several factors, inclduing the depth of UConn matched up against West Virginia's short rotation, were obviously big factors. WVU, which was able to get back in transition defense and contest UConn's inside game for the first three-fourths of the contest, suddenly couldn't seem to do anything right. The Huskies piled up points over those last ten minutes while the Mountaineers failed to score, failed to defend, and failed to keep up. The result was a margin of victory that wasn't really indicative of the game, but, in all likelihood, was a relative judge of the strength of the two teams at this point.

The down ending is not to imply that WVU quit. There did seem to be effort, even as things went awry. However, for the first time this season, the Mountaineers didn't seem to handle adversity very well. Loose balls that should have been contested wound up easily in the hands of Huskies, and WVU seemed to droop emotionally after UConn extended their lead past the ten-point mark.

Earlier this year, WVU climbed back from a twenty-point deficit against Providence earlier this season, and although they didn't win, they did show a good deal of grit and determination. That "fight back" attitude seemed to be lacking from WVU on this afternoon. Hopefully, it will be a one-time event.

There were a few bright spots. Kevin Pittsnogle continued with his good play, scoring 17 points and making a couple of strong moves around the hoop. D'or Fischer added ten, and Joe Herber also pitched in ten.

The Mountaineers now face a tricky game against St. John's which is reeling from both a horrid Big East season and the loss of five players due to indiscretions committed at a strip bar and a nearby hotel room. On paper, WVU should handle the depleted Red Storm roster, but sometimes teams that are cornered in situations like this come back fighting hard.

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