Big East Schedule Looms

Shooting woes have been the main reason for West Virginia's 1-2 record in its past three outings, but head basketball coach John Beilein believes there are other things the Mountaineers need to do to grab wins in the upcoming rugged Big East schedule.

Of late we haven't been able to throw the ball in the ocean," Beilein said of his team's recent performances. "That's a big reason why we are 1-2. We came off shooting 55% at North Carolina State to shooting half of that in the last three games."

WVU obviously depends on shooting the ball well from the perimeter to win games, but there are also additional things that Beilein says the Mountaineers must do in order to have success in the brutal stretch of games coming up, which includes two meetings with Boston College and Providence along with single games against Connecticut, Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame.

"Just like everybody at this time of year, we need to execute better. We have to do the little things to win games – take charges, run the floor, things like that. Those are things you can get by no doing in non conference games, but it's sort of fool's gold, because you won't win in the Big East without doing them. West Virginia will have to do everything right to have a chance to win these games."

That's not an idle observation, because not only is the Big East one of the top two conferences in the country, but also features a number of teams that are improving.

"There's not a program that's on a downturn right now," Beilein said. "It seems that everyone [in the league] is on an uptick. Teams that win the national championship might slip from number one to number ten in the nation, but every program, if they aren't in the Top 25, are moving in that direction. Everybody is a tough out no matter where they are."


Beilein is warily eyeing Boston College, which invades the Coliseum for a Sunday afternoon tilt.

"Obviously they are a terrific team. They are undefeated, and have almost everybody back from last year's team. We were fortunate to beat them last year. Every ball bounced our way for 40 minutes. We have to do more than that to defeat them this year.

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Beilein also commented on the energy brought to the floor by Mike Gansey, and on the recent struggles of Tyrone Sally, who has appeared a bit out of sync of late.

"Mike Gansey has been great energy on and off the court. The team loves him and he loves the environment here. He's been a great catalyst in almost every game. At times he has had trouble in picking up what we do, but not as often as what it used to be. Scoring, rebounding, all those important things, he has been good. And he has twice as many assists right now as he had his entire sophomore year at St. Bonaventure."

"Tyrone just may be tired," Beilein said of his stalwart senior. We came off a stretch where he's played major minutes, and where we played four games in four different cities in eight nights. We've asked him to go after boards harder and do a lot, and at his weight he may not be able to endure that. It may be taking its toll. However, he has bee extremely productive for us."

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Despite some of the recent recognition afforded his squad, Beilein still thinks his team plays better without fanfare.

"I've said it before, but our guys may be more comfortable being hunters," the veteran coach observed. "We like being the underdog. If we put that in [the players'] minds, we shouldn't have to worry about looking past a particular game. We have come so far with this program, but still not caught up in all areas. Our players know that just by looking at the size of other teams. I don't think you have to worry about us looking past anyone.

"I don't want to jump too far ahead," he continued. "We have not become a national power yet. We've ended up catching some teams on the right night. We are still in this process. We are not there yet, but we are going to get there. We have that core group of kids that we first got that bought into the system. They give their heart and soul every day in practice. That first group of kids we recruited might not have been recruited by other Big East teams, but they wanted to play here at this level. Those guys, along with Tyrone Sally and Kevin Pittsnogle, have been terrific."

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In order to make some waves in the conference, WVU will have to figure out a way to eke out some wins over the next three weeks. One thing the team has in its corner is the Big Mushroom on Jerry West Boulevard.

"The Coliseum will have to pull off some magic – we have some terrific teams coming in here," Beilein said. "I'd assume we'll have five digits [in attendance] for most of the next couple of weeks. If we get between 10-14 thousand, it's a great home court advantage. It gets loud, and the kids play well at home.

"In all the years I've been coaching, it's very rare to feel the crowd at home," Beilein said. "At home because they are on your side, sometimes you don't feel it. But here, you do. You know they are making a difference in games. Every game, at some point, they've made a difference. We don't always win it, but there's no doubt we have a greater advantage when we play in the Coliseum."

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