Blowout Enjoyment

The joy of playing without a nailbiting finish or flipflopping stomachs was easy to see on the faces of the Mountaineer basketball team both during and after their 86-52 pasting of St. John's.

No matter that the game was against a reeling foe, or that just 5,816 attended the Wednesday night contest. The simple fact that WVU got to empty their bench, get everyone appreciable playing time and avoided having to grind out a win made the mood playful during the second half and especially in the postgame interview area.

"I think it's one of the first one our class has had," a smiling Kevin Pittsnogle noted after the game. "We wanted to keep playing hard not matter what the score was, and we had some goals we wanted to meet."

Pittsnogle was quick to point out that getting players like Jonathan Curran and Duriel Price into the game was a big boost for the morale of the entire team.

"They push us really hard in practice every day. Coach Neubauer told us we were playing to get them into the game, so that's what we tried to do. We wanted to give them as much time as possible."

Soon after that comment, Pittsnogle was off to joke with some of his teammates. He mimicked the press corps' gyrations to get a microphone close to interviewees, and even mimed using a video camera as he "shot footage" of Patrick Beilein's interview. Price, after getting grilled about his final three-point attempt (that came against Neubauer's orders, but set a WVU record for three-pointers in a game), soon joined him in the fun.

Other than pointing out the fact that these are still college kids, and not NBA professionals, these actions were a nice departure from the usually serious face that the Mountaineer team projects to the media. Winning the game so easily seems to augur good things for this Mountaineer team, especially if it results in a lightened mood like the one in the hall outside the locker room on Wednesday. It was an evening of loose, fun basketball for a squad that usually has to scrap for every point and put forth hurculean efforts for each win, so there's no doubt it had a positive effect on the team.

Price, who is usually the one seated courtside cheering on his teammates, was happy to see the support coming from his teammates when the roles were reversed.

"It means a lot," Price said of getting some minutes at the end of the game and hearing his teammates' cheers. "I don't get to play a lot, but I try to be a leader and do what I can. To get out there and hit a shot, it's a big deal.

"Everybody supports each other. It's a team thing. We are all in this together, and they cheer for me as much as I cheer for them, in practice and in games."

That may sound a bit sappy, but it was easy to see that it was true. When Curran, and later Price, entered the game, the starters and top subs off the bench stood and cheered them on, urging them to get a shot and enjoying the time that their teammates had earned on the court.

That support, and those feel-good minutes at the Coliseum, might not give WVU enough momentum to make the NCAAs, but it certainly was a big boost to their travel plans for the Big East tournament and an NIT berth. And no matter what the outcome of the season, for once, everyone in the family got a chance at the dinner table. That led to a fun time at the Coliseum and a few memorable moments for a pair of walkons who contribute so much to the team.


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