Loss of Poise

West Virginia uncharacteristically fell apart down the stretch and gift-wrapped a 60-58 win for Syracuse on Monday night.

The Mountaineers went scoreless over the final four minutes and botched their final two possessions, allowing an average Syracuse team to secure its second consecutive home win as well as a likely at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. West Virginia looked totally out of sync on its last two chances, with little ball movement and lots of standing around highlighting its final two chances to win the game.

On the last possession, West Virginia played catch above the top of the key and never moved the ball below the free throw line. Patrick Beilein was forced to hoist a long range three with the shot clock winding down, and when it bounced away, so did WVU's chances to win.

"On that last one, we just stood around and got confused," Beilein said of the ugly possession. "Those last two possessions will bother me for a little while. We'll learn from it. I'm just really disappointed with this loss. I just think we are a better team than the last two possessions."

That feeling was likely shared by his team, which dropped its fourth game in five outings and is now in danger of losing its chance at a bye in the first round of the Big East tournament. Although WVU still controls its own destiny in that regard, it can't be considered a strong favorite in any of its final three games.

West Virginia struggled throughout the contest to get good shots against Syracuse's resurgent 2-3 zone, which cut down passing lanes and forced WVU to shoot from long range for most of the night. The Mountaineers made 12 shots from three-point range, but had just 11 from inside the arc.

"Obviously, their zone is tough to get ball in against," Beilein said. "We're playing as well as I think we can play last night. It's tough to get over the hump here. To beat them, we have to have more than Kevin and Patrick having good games.

Pittsnogle led WVU with 20 points, while Beilein added 18. Only Mike Gansey (eight), Joe Herber (seven) and Darris Nichols (five) joined the pair in the scoring column. Cocky Eric Devendorf led Syracuse with 17, and while the Mountaineers were able to hold star Gerry McNamara to just five, his missing points were more than offset by Terrence Roberts' 16 and Darryl Watkins' ten.

After weathering a five-minute scoring drought to start the game, WVU stayed in touch with the Orange on the strength of Patrick Beilein, who had scored just five points in the last two games. Beilein's five three-pointers accounted for half of West Virginia's first half points, with the final one giving WVU a 30-29 lead at the break. However, that one point margin wasn't enough to hold off a Syracuse squad that protected the ball well (nine turnovers) and shot 46% from the field.

The loss drops West Virginia into a tie for third place in the league with Pitt. The Mountaineers are off until Saturday, when they host Lousiville at the Coliseum.

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