WVU upsets PC in Catlett's first game

West Virginia played like a team with nothing to lose. And, in truth, it didn't have much. The Mountaineers had lost nine consecutive games, a school record dating to 1936-37, and were without head coach Gale Catlett, who took a leave of absence because of health concerns over an infection.

Instead, coached by fifth-year assistant Drew Catlett, Gale's nephew, the Mountaineers (8-11, 1-6 Big East) pieced together their best all-around game in more than a month.

Chris Moss scored 26 points and Chaz Briggs added 13 points and 13 rebounds in WVU's 89-81 upset win over Providence (12-10, 3-5).

"The players are excited, but we are only 1-6," Catlett said. "It's good to break the streak, but there is a lot left to do. We have to win every game we can.

"This is probably more emotional for me because I am related to (Gale) and I love him so much. Most of what I learned about basketball I know from him."

He put it all to work as WVU, running the same system it normally does, made timely shots and runs to score 25 of the final 35 points to win going away. They hit 19 of their final 26 free throws and 33 of 43 overall.

The student section chanted "Drew Catlett" at the end of the game as the players came off the floor to hugs from the coach.

"He was pretty wound up," Briggs said of Catlett. "I think he gave us energy. Usually when we make mistakes we look at Gale. Tonight we just played."

WVU led through most of the first half and answered every Providence run to avoid setting a new school mark for most consecutive losses.

After Providence went on an 8-2 run for its first lead of the game, 31-30, with 6:32 left in the first half, WVU was able to answer with a 9-3 run to equal biggest lead of the half, 39-34. The Mountaineers, last in the league in points per game, led 48-43 at the break, their best total of the season.

Every time the Friars seemed poised to make another run WVU settled nicely to reclaim the lead. PC scored 15 of the first 24 points in the second half to the lead, then went on a 6-0 run to go ahead 71-64. It was the Friars' biggest lead of the game.

It was also their last.

West Virginia answered with a 13-1 run, including 10 consecutive points, to lead 77-72. Moss, on the way to equaling a season-high for points, hit two free throws to start, and WVU applied full court pressure. That led to a pair of transition hoops by Tyrone Sally. Briggs, who set a career high for rebounds, added three points.

"We stressed playing relaxed," Lionel Armstead, who scored 14 points, said. "This is how we felt early in the year, when we were getting some wins."

WVU had not won since Dec. 22 at Tennessee.

"I don't believe in catching them at a good or bad time," Providence head coach Tim Welsh said. "They got life early, and I am sure they played for their coach. That's the X factor, playing for him. They played their heart out."

Providence, outrebounded 41-31, managed just 10 points in the final eight minutes as WVU changed between a 2-3 zone and man defenses. From there WVU eased pressure and settled into the free throw battle.

"I do not like preparing for their teams and it is because of Gale," Welsh said. "They are very well coached. I wish him the best. He is a class coach, a very well-respected coach among peers. I hope they get him back soon. WVU is difficult to play against because of him."

Drew Catlett said Catlett, on a new antibiotic, is feeling better. He has not set a timetable for his return.

"Our hopes and prayers with him last three days," Catlett said. "He was feeling better last night (Tuesday) and I hope he returns quickly to us."

Point guard John Linehan scored 18 to lead the Friars. Abdul Mills and Ryan Gomes finished with 17 points each.

WVU starting point guard Jonathan Hargett, still recovering from knee surgery, scored 17 points in 24 minutes.

The Mountaineers are 5-0 when scoring more than 80 points. Providence dropped to 12-4 when holding foes to less than 50 percent from the floor.

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