Basketball Season Ends With Difficult Loss

West Virginia's season ended with a 67-64 loss to Rutgers in the NIT round of sixteen, but the Mountaineers didn't go down without a fight.

WVU twice battled back from big deficits, but couldn't overcome a late Quincy Douby three-pointer and a pair of free throws from a sub-60% free throw shooter as they dropped a hard fought game to the Scralet Knights in Piscataway, N.J.

Douby hit a trey to break a 61-61 tie, and after a Joe Herber free throw, Adrian Hill made a pair from the line to give the Knights a 66-62 lead. WVU managed to cut the lead to 67-64, but a tough Patrick Beilein three-point attempt with two seconds to go was off the mark.

Hill's free throws stood in contrast to WVU's performance at the line. Only two Mountaineers, D'or Fischer and Jarmon Durisseau-Collins, made trips to the line, and they combined to go just 9-14 from the stripe. By comparison, Rutgers was a healthy 17-23 from the same spot.

The Mountaineers trailed for much of the second half, and at one point trailed by ten points at 45-35. However, the toughened WVU squad refused to fold, and again rallied to tie the score, this time at 54-54 on a Tyrone Sally basket midway through the period.

WVU's deficit was partly built by some fouls that the Mountaineers hadn't made in most other games this year, including two on three-point attempts.

"We gave up ten points on free throws where we hit the jump shooters' wrist," head coahc John Beilein observed afterward. "Those, plus a couple of tough shots by Shields, and that's the difference."

Rutgers got off to a smoking start, jumping out to a 12-3 lead by the first media timeout and reviving memories of the blowout that occurred less than a month ago. Head coach John Beilein, usually conservative with his timeouts, spent two before the 16-minute mark in an attempt to slow the onslaught, and immediately following the second, the Mountaineers turned the tide.

A D'or Fischer block, which he immediatley backed up with a dunk, seemd to energize the Mountaineers, who tied the game at 13-all on a Tyrone Sally three-pointer from the corner, his second of the game. WVU moved out to a a four point lead on a Joe Herber jumper at 20-16, but the Scarlet Knights responded with another burst, scoring nine straight points to jump back into the lead at 25-20.

Just as they did in the early part of the game, WVU had an answer. Joe Herber hit a three, Patrick Beilein nailed a jumper, Frank Young hit another trey and D'or Fischer added a free throw to put the Mountaineers back on top at 29-27. The teams then traded scores before the half ended in a 32-32 tie.

"We played hard and the kids are pretty down," Beilein said afterward. "We are not losers this year. We kept fighting back. We had adversity, tough whistles at time, and we still hung in there."

The Mountaineer offensive effort was a team-based one, with every player on the floor getting on the scoreboard. D'or Fischer had 16 points, while Tyrone Sally and Patrick Beilein each added 10. The Mountaineers shot well overall, making 46% from the field and 55% on three-pointers.

Ricky Shields again had a monster game, hitting 5-6 shots from three-point range on his way to 26 points.

The tough loss was difficult to take, but the Mountaineers' final 17-14 record was another step forward for the rebuilding program.

"If anyone said we'd be over .500 and have a couple of postseason wins, in year two, I'd have said they were crazy," Beilein noted. "This is a credit to the kids and the staff. There were rough spots where people counted us out, but these are tough kids, and they learned to be tougher this year. Now Tyrone and D'or have to make things happen and take it up a level as seniors.

"I'm hurting right now - and I didn't want to stop coaching right now," the veteran mentor observed. "We were rolling. We made some strides we needed to make this year. It's the right progression, but it hurts a little bit right now."

WVU will return every player on the roster other than walkon Jonathan Curran, and will add redshirts Mike Gansey and B.J. Byerson, along with freshmen Darris Nichols and Luke Bonner, to next year's squad. The Mountaineers will get a running start on next year's season with an overseas trip to Germany during the summer.

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