Six Little Shots

Although most observers attributed WVU's loss to UConn to the Mountaineers' woeful 24.2% shooting from three-point range, the difference in the contest actually came on six shots much closer to the basket.

West Virginia's recent shooting slump has been most apparent from three-point range, where the Mountaineers have been about as accurate as a scud missile of late. However, against Connecticut, it was misses from far closer to the hoop that kept WVU from upsetting the visiting Huskies.

16:45 First Half - Mike Gansey, admittedly not himself in the past few games, goes to the basket but can't get his shot to fall

Call this one half mental, half physical. After the game, a clearly frustrated Gansey detailed the shooting drills he has done to correct his errant jump shot, and it's clear that the lack of success has affected other parts of his game. Gansey also didn't elevate to nearly the normal height he does on layups and close-in shot attempts - factors that obviously affect his shooting form.

15:15 First Half - Patrick Beilein drives to the basket, but amidst a forest of UConn arms, doesn't see the hoop well and gets off an awkward shot that doesn't scare the net

Driving to the basket isn't Beilein's forte, so it's odd to see him taking a layup as his first try of the night. UConn crowded him on the perimeter for much of the night, so he may have been thinking he needed to create some space for himself by making the Huskies respect his ability to put the ball on the floor.

To his credit, Beilein didn't make any excuses for the miss, and refused to blame his outside shooting woes for affecting the layup try.

"Maybe it affected us a little bit, but the bottom line is we just have to make shots," the junior guard said afterward. "We're Division 1 players. I know I had one I missed. We just have to forget about that and make them."

14:32 First Half - On the very next possession, D'or Fischer gets the ball in the lane, hesitates, then puts up a soft shot from about two feet away. It skips over the front of the rim, hits the back iron, and bounces out

A timid shot results in a miss. The move to make in this case would have been a power dribble and a strong move to the basket, but instead, a somehat skittish Fischer appeared to look for a defender before taking his shot. That's something that the coaching staff has been working to eliminate, but it hasn't been worked out yet.

"He thinks everyone blocks shots like him," head coach John Beilein said of Fischer. "He may be worried about that. He was in a funk, but he will bounce back."

19:00 Second Half - Tyrone Sally spins into the lane, but can't get one of his patented finger rolls to drop

West Virginia, playing against a physical front line that leads the nation in blocked shots, often appeared to be looking for defenders rather than taking the ball up strongly to the glass. That's not the way to challenge shot blockers, of course, but it's tough to change attitudes about geting your shot rejected. Players would much rather twist and contort to get a shot off instead of getting in close against a bigger player in an attempt to draw a foul.

"Today's kids just have this mentality that if they get their shot blocked, they're on the way to an orphanage or something," Beilein noted. "We have to change that."

Four minutes and eight seconds elapse before UConn scores in the second half, yet WVU is able to score just three points during that span, partly due to the intimidation factor.

15:51 Second Half - Kevin Pittsnogle has a layup attempt, but is bothered by a defender hovering over his back, and misses it

This one is all the more puzzling because Pittsnogle converted a similar move in the first half. Catching the ball in the post, he drop-stepped to the hoop and hit a layup. That's been a pattern for the big man, who, like Fischer, still doesn't seem to have grasped the fact that he's 6-10.

12:35 Second Half - After grabbing an offensive rebound, Fischer gets the ball in the lane and puts up a stickback, which misses. He grabs the rebound again, but this time passes the ball out to the perimeter for another missed three point try

Compare this sequence to the one recorded by Josh Boone in the first half. The 6-10 UConn center had his first attempt rejected by Tyrone Sally, but got the rebound. He went up again, and missed again, but came down with the board again. On his third try, he finally stuck the ball in the hole. Lesson: Perserverance leads to points.

One thing to note about these six little shots - they were attempted by five different players. There's no finger pointing to be done here. Simply the observation that the shooting woes and attendant mental problems that have set in aren't just affecting one or two players. Just as it was when the Mountaineers were rattling off wins in November, it's a team effort.

Six little shots. Simple matters, really. Twelve lost points that would have made a huge difference in the game. Whether it's mental, physical, or a combination of the two, West Virginia can't afford to give away points, when every possession is a struggle to score.

Even with the frigid shooting rate from beyond the arc, WVU was in position to steal a win against the big boys of the Big East. All that stood in their way was six little shots.

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