Mountaineers Sink Pirates

The Mountaineers came out hot, and never really cooled off en route to a 96-86 victory over the Seton Hall Pirates on Sunday evening at the WVU Coliseum.

Senior forward Tyrone Sally matched his career high with 25 points to lead a balanced Mountaineer effort. Mike Gansey also tied his career high with 19 points, while fellow juniors Kevin Pittsnogle and Joe Herber rounded out the double figures scoring at 16 and 10 points, respectively.

After the teams traded missed baskets on their first possessions, Herber drove to the goal and saw his lay-up rim out. But an offensive rebound by Pittsnogle set up another opportunity for the Mountaineers to score, and Sally drilled a three from the wing off of a nice feed from Herber. After Seton Hall got on the board, the Pirates eventually took a 7-6 lead. As it turned out, that one point margin was the final time that Louis Orr's bunch would lead the game.

For the rest of the first half, the Mountaineer defense created chaos, as well as 10 Seton Hall turnovers, while the offense continually got great looks at the basket. Sally and Gansey combined for 24 points on 10-17 shooting in the first frame, and the Mountaineers led at the half 41-32.

"The 1-3-1 zone sometimes forces turnovers," said Orr after the game.

In previous games this season, the Mountaineers have had some big first halves as far as the scoreboard goes, but usually ended up cooling off a little in the second half as far as point production was concerned. Also, there is almost always an inevitable scoring drought at some point in the second half that ranges from about three to eight minutes. Against the Pirates, that simply wasn't the case as the Mountaineers actually outdid their 41 point effort in the first half, scoring 55 in the second half to finish with a season-high 96.

"I wouldn't have believed anybody had they said the game was going to be in the 90s," said Mountaineer coach John Beilein.

In the second half, the Mountaineers kept the heat on the Pirates, not letting them back in the game at any point. In fact, Seton Hall only got as close as seven points in the second half. Pittsnogle, who only had three points in the first half, scored 13 in the second. If you remember, last season Kevin had his best game against the Pirates. It also happened to be the only game that the Martinsburg native wore a sleeved shirt under his jersey. Today, he tried the trick again, coming out with the sleeves that only Mike Gansey and Duriel Price wear on a consistent basis. At halftime, shooting just 1-5 and scoring only three points, Kevin decided the sleeves had to go.

"Last year I played well against them with the shirt, so I thought I would do the same thing today. At halftime though I wasn't playing well, plus it was getting hot, so I decided to just go back to normal," admitted Pittsnogle after the game.

Sleeves or not, this was a big win for the Mountaineers. Even though the Pirates aren't playing for much more than pride at this point, every win down the stretch increases the Mountaineers' chances of making the Big Dance. The next game will undoubtedly be a step up in competition when the Mountaineers travel to play Pitt on Wednesday night. Sitting at 16-8, and 6-7 in the Big East Conference, a win Wednesday night would set the Mountaineers up in good shape for the final two games of the regular season.

"On the teams that I have coached before, we have had very few opportunities to get on the bubble late in the season. To go up there and beat them on the road would be tough, but it would be a huge win at the end of February," summed up Beilein.

At least they have given themselves a chance. Come Wednesday night, we will see what they do with the opportunity provided.

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