The Mountaineers committed 21 turnovers, shot 4-21 from three point range, and generally played as if they had not set foot on a major college basketball court.
WVU was embarassed by the crisp passing and ball movment of Valpo, which often resulted in wide open looks for Crusader shooters. Even the Valpo press, which shouldn't have provided more than token opposition for WVU, yielded several steals and breakaway layups and slams.
The Mountaineers actually played fairly well in the opening half. West Virginia scored the first eight points of the game and led 10-2 at the sixteen minute mark. From that point on, however, Valpo took control and climbed back into the game.
The Crusaders took a 26-24 lead late in the half, but WVU managed to retake the lead at 32-21 with 2:05 to play. Neither team scored for the remainder of the half, and WVU gave a hint of things to come when they failed to get a shot off in the last minute of the half.
Valparaiso took complete and utter control of the game from the beginning of the second half, outscoring the Mountaineers 32-8 in the opening eight minutes. The only thing missing was a shovel as Valpo buried WVU under an avalanche of pressing defense, three point shots, and drives to the basket. The Crusaders led 63-40 with twleve minutes to go, after which the game was never in doubt.
"We seemed to be a different team in the second half," commented WVU head coach Gale Catlett. "We stopped lining up in the right spots, and a lot of that had to do with Valparaiso playing the passing lanes."
Freshman point guard Jonathan Hargett continued to struggle, shooting 1-11 from the field, including 0-8 on three point shots. Few of those shots were forced, which has been a problem in past games. It was simply a case of good shots not going in. Hargett also committed nine turnovers in just 20 minutes of action, which put a huge crimp in the West Virginia attack.
"I took him out because he was passing the ball to the other team, and not running the offense," Catlett said of Hargett. "We need our point guard to run the team. The key to the game was our inability, in the second half, to run the offense in the halfcourt or against the press."
The ugly performance can't totally be pinned on Hargett. Other than Lionel Armstead, WVU's guards combined for 1-14 shooting as Valpo sat back in their 1-3-1 zone and dared the Mountaineers to fire away.
"I thought they were pretty good on defense," Catlett said of the Crusaders. Catlett declined to break down the problems and weaknesses his team has at the moment, but anyone who has watched the Mountaineers so far have a pretty good idea of what those areas of concern are.
Defensively, WVU covered Valpo on the perimeter well early, but were unable to contain the Crusaders' drives to the basket. Valpo got inside for several key hoops in their first half rally, then uncorked several threes in their opening second half run as West Virginia's defense fell apart.
Chris Moss was again ignored for long stretches of the second half despite scoring 15 points in the opening stanza. Moss finished with 19 points on the evening. Lionel Armstead was the only other scorer in double figures for WVU with 11.
West Virginia will face the loser of the Pepperdine - Arizona game on Sunday afternoon.
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