Kentucky's combination zone, in which they switched on every screen and extended coverage to three-point arc, confused the Mountaineers in the first half and contributed to the scoring drought. West Virginia was unable to get to the basket or penetrate the hybrid defense, and was forced to settle for open, yet often lengthy, three point tries. Seventeen of WVU's 20 first half bombs missed the mark, and only a J.D. Collins trey at the buzzer kept West Virginia within seven points at the half.
"We don't play well behind, and we just buried ourselves in the first half," head coach John Beilein said afterward. "Our guards were 0-9 in the first half, and that's not characteristic of our team."
Also out of the norm for the gold and blue was a rather unispired defense effort, which allowed UK to easily top the 50% mark from the field. WVU, which lives defensively by creating deflections and steals with shifting defenses, seemed lethargic at times, and the Wildcats took advantage. Patrick Sparks' seven three-pointers led a barrage of 12 triples from the UK perimeter, with many of them serving to stem mini-WVU rallies.
Other than Kevin Pittsnogle's 27-point, 10-rebound effort, WVU was listless offensively. Mike Gansey scored 12 points and contributed seven rebounds, but appeard sluggish compared to the whirling dervish that spun across the floor a night earlier against Texas. WVU shot a dismal 10-37 from three-point range, while the Wildcats managed two more treys on 12 fewer attempts.
Kentucky also shook things up by starting Sparks, Ravi Moss and Rekalin Sims -- three substitutes who had been outplaying Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley off the bench. Their play accounted for 45 of UK's 80 points, and gave the Wildcats a much more balanced attack. West Virginia got just nine points from its bench, and played just eight players in the game. Short, unproductive stints from Rob Summers, Darris Nichols and Patrick Beilein off the bench did nothing to give WVU a spark on a night in which it desperately needed one.
Unlike the previous night's near miss against Texas, WVU didn't get much of the team play it needed to be successful. Every Mountaineer but one missed at least one three point attempt in the first half drought, and only Mike Gansey (12 points, seven rebounds) aided Pittsnogle on anything approaching a consistent basis.
WVU (2-2) returns home Saturday to host LSU in a sold-out game, at which Jerry West's legendary #44 will be retired.