12th loss in 13 Guarantees Non-winning Season

West Virginia's collapse is complete. The Mountaineers, expected to have their strongest team since 1997-98, the year they went to the Sweet 16, will suffer their third non-winning regular season in four years after an 85-79 loss to Seton Hall Saturday.

The loss, WVU's 12th in their last 13 games, virtually locked the Mountaineers out of the Big East Tournament.

The Pirates (12-11, 5-6 Big East), losers of three of four coming into the game and ahead of only West Virginia (8-14, 1-9) in the Big East West Division, dominated WVU for the second time this season in taking the tiebreaker by sweeping the series.

Seton Hall never trailed after the 13:57 mark and consistently led by five points down the stretch. WVU managed to tie the game at 73, but the Pirates forced a turnover off John Oliver and scored the next seven points to seal the contest.

Darius Lane, who is averaging 21 points in a five-game career against WVU, scored a game-high 23 points and Andre Barrett and Marcus Toney-El added 16 and 14, respectively. Chaz Briggs and Josh Yeager led WVU with 18 and 16 points, respectively. The Mountaineers missed seven of 11 free throws.

"This was a big win for us, a huge road win," Seton Hall head coach Louis Orr said. "Marcus (Toney-El) was a huge lift off the bench and might have made the difference."

The Pirates, led by Lane's three steals, forced 15 turnovers and had runs of seven, 10 and eight points to hold off any Mountaineer charge. In the process they destroyed both coach and player confidence at WVU.

Mountaineer head coach Gale Catlett, who missed two games with an infection and will likely suffer his third losing season in 25 years at WVU, said his team "has errors passing, errors in sets and errors in shots. It is the worst shooting team from the guard spots I ever coached. They practiced as horrible as I have ever seen. That boggles my mind. They want to win and they are good kids, but they just don't understand that you play like you practice."

Before the recent four-year skid Catlett had just one losing season in 25 years as a collegiate head coach. This year his team tied a 63-year-old school-record with nine consecutive losses. If WVU loses the rest of its games it will set a school mark with 20 losses.

"This was a big game to lose," Briggs said. "If we would have won, and could have gotten three of four more, we might have made the Big East Tournament. This puts us in a bad situation. I thought at the beginning of the season we were going to be one of the best teams in the conference. That hasn't happened."

Instead the Mountaineers were confused and unsure in their half court offense and basic perimeter defense and seemed to be without a floor leader as two seniors were missing.

Shooting guard Lionel Armstead, WVU's best three-point threat, was suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. Leading scorer Chris Moss, a forward who played just 13 minutes -- none in the second half -- went to a local hospital at the half complaining of stomach and side pains. His condition is unknown.

Junior point guard Tim Lyles, out all season with a knee injury, was also suspended at the same time as Armstead.

It's the latest in a staggering series of problems for the team.

West Virginia has had three different players suspended for at least one game this season. Starting point guard Jonathan Hargett has also missed game time in two contests because of violating team rules.

"We can't seem to have five players practice and play together," Catlett said. "We have had some big losses this year, and we are really in trouble. We play hard but not smart, and we foul the wrong people and get the ball taken out of our hands. I am not telling them to do that."

But it's happening, and because of it the Mountaineers were swept by Seton Hall and Rutgers, the two teams closest to them in the standings, and have lost many games they were expected to win.

"Seton Hall wanted it more and it showed," Yeager said. "We just have to get motivated. We can't turn the ball over and we have to make shots. It's the same things we take from every other game."

Which is little more than a loss.

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