Close Calls

West Virginia has been involved in a number of close games with Duquesne over the years, and the trio of matchups under John Beilein has been no different. WVU is 2-1 against the Dukes in that span, with no game being decided by more than four points.

"I think Duquesne has very good athletes," Beilein said as he gave his thoughts on the matchup. They have Atlantic 10 talent. If you look at difference between the Big East and the A10, the Big East gets more teams into the NCAA, but in head-to-head in some scenarios it's going to be a close game. When you play Duquesne, you are not playing a lower-level team. Whether it's St. Joe's, which went to the Elite Eight, or Xavier threatening to go to the Final Four, the A10 is a heck of a conference.

What Beilein is saying, in so many words, is that the Dukes, unlike many teams, seem to match up with the Mountaineers well. Duquesne features mobile athletes who are able to negotiate many of the screens and picks in the Mountaineer offense, and thus put crimps in the Mountaineer attack. Players such as Bryant McAllister, who averaged 16.1 points per game a year ago, have fared well against WVU.

"McAllister is a tremendous athlete and a great scorer," Beilein allowed. "He's as good an athlete as we will see this year."

Despite the quick turnaround from Wednesday's game (WVU will be completing a three games in eight days stretch when it hosts the Dukes), the fourth-year head coach looks forward to the challenge.

"It's a tough one for us, but we look forward to playing again, even on the short turnaround," Beilein said. "We have been playing better together of late."


The notion is harbored in some quarters that West Virginia has become over-reliant on the three-point shot, but Beilein disagrees.

"What's happened is that the three has always been a good weapon, but when your center is one of the leading three-point percentage leaders, and the best all-time at the school, that's five or six more threes per game that you are going to attempt," Beilein explained. "When your center shoots them, you are going to take more than the other team. It would be crazy not to play that way. I'm not a three-point coach who has suddenly said this is the only way we can win here. But with a player like Kevin Pittsnogle, you have to use him and try to open up the floor. It doesn't give us a lot of offensive rebounds, but three is more than 2. I'd rather give up a two than a three, and I'd rather take an open three than a contested two.

"I don't know if ‘live by the three and die by the three' is accurate," he continued. "If we hit it, it's good, but we don't necessarily die if we don't. We've won games here where we've shot 32 or 29%. [from three]. We play how the defense is going to play us. If they give us those, we are going to take advantage of it. If they don't then they must be leaving something else open for us."

Beilein clinched the argument with a simple, but eloquent quote.

"If we're not designing shots for Kevin Pittsnogle, then I'm the dumbest coach in the world."

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Beilein noted that leading scorer Mike Gansey learned a lot from the experiences of last year's tournament season and overseas international play this summer.

"The February and March Mike had last year gave him confidence," Beilein said, "Then, the fact that he played on [the University Games] team and played significant minutes, doubled his confidence. He has just come out this year incredibly. His poise and understanding of defense has improved dramatically. He understands floor spacing (international play helps that), rather than just throwing [the ball] into the block and standing around."

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