Mountaineers Get Defensive in Win

West Virginia used outstanding first half defensive play and some momentum-swinging dunks in the second to defeat Villanova 67-60 on Saturday at the WVU Coliseum.

Although Villanova opened the game with two quick basekts for a 4-0 lead, West Virginia outscored the Wildcats 37-14 the rest of the way to take a big 19-point lead into the locker room at the half. West Virginia's defense was outstanding in the opening 20 minutes, as the Mountaineers (14-8, 6-5) used a modification to their 1-3-1 defense along with some man-to-man to baffle the visitors.

WVU had 12 deflections and seven steals to move out to their big lead, scoring 11 points off Villanova's 11 turnovers. The sticky defense held the Wildcats to just 28% shooting in the first half.

The Mountaineers didn't have a big scoring explosion to fuel their first half lead; instead, it was more of a steady climb. Every Villanova basket, of which there were few, seemed to be countered by a pair of hoops. WVU's first half dominance was capped by Kevin Pittsnogle's big three-pointer with three seconds to go, and sent the team into halftime with the crowd roaring.

The second half was a different story. Although WVU pushed their lead out to 20 at 45-25 with 13:37 to go, Villanova (13-10, 5-5) wasn't done. The Wildcats went on their own "slow run". This one was a 20-2 job that cut the lead to 47-45 with 7:30 to play. Over that six minutes, WVU managed only a pair of free throws from Jarmon Durisseau-Collins, and went more than five minutes without scoring.

At that point, though, the Mountaineers righted the ship. Joe Herber powered into the lane for a layup, and then found Tyrone Sally for a monstrous jam to give WVU a six point lead. Although the Wildcats again cut the lead to two, D'or Ficher got into the act by throwing down his own dunk after it appeared that Villanova was in position to make a steal near midcourt. Kevin Pittsnogle came out of a scramble for the ball and found Fischer for a jam that put WVU back up by four.

It was a team effort down the strech, as Kevin Pittsnogle came up big with a conventional three-point play and a big trey from the corner while Patrick Beilein, Tyrone Sally and D'or Fischer combined to go 6-8 from the free throw line down the stretch.

WVU again passed the ball crisply, earning assists on 16 of their 22 field goals. Although the Mountaineers didn't have a good shooting night from three-point range (5-21), the threes they did hit came at crucial times in the contest. West Virginia was also a rock solid 18-24 from the free throw line to help put the game away.

WVU now has a week off before hosting Pitt at the Coliseum next Saturday at 7:00 p.m.

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