Weekend Twist

West Virginia could hardly play worse than it had in Monday's loss to Syracuse. Flat-footed offense, typical interior defense (read: bad), and worse, lackluster effort and no ingenuity.

Thirty-five seconds ticked down, with the floor general standing 10 feet away from his offspring. No timeout, no senior initiation. Just stagnation and a son's 25-footer that bounced off the rim and started a meltdown of significance for Morgantown environs. Predictions of three losses in as many games to end the season. Darlings of the NIT. This year's Druscilla (courtesy Roger and Hammerstein's ‘Cinderella'). Repent, the end is near – John: 1-3-1.

So, facing a school which had dismissed it last year with alarming efficiency, the Mountaineers missed 23 of 31 3-pointers, had the longest free-throwless streak in school history extended by a half-plus (63:25 of game time total) and were outshot from the floor and outscored from the bench.

Eighteen and nine, kids, 9-5 Big East. Fifth place to come. Four losses left, including the only two tourney games WVU would play. One and done in New York like a Broadway flop. An invitation to be dumped in basketball's version of a Sadie Hawkins gathering.

Told what it couldn't do, namely get to the line, break pressure, Phi Slamma Jamma and generally stay within 10 of a foe in rebounding, West Virginia did the foursome in 20 minutes.


It beat Louisville in – or via – the process, moving to within one win of twenty and the most Big East wins in school history. It snapped a season long streak and the vaunted Cardinal press like a team oiled as well as Rick Pitino's tresses.

It utilized that undervalued spot on the floor against a 2-3, the foul line, as a pivot, breaking for backdoors or hitting the lost-art jumper. Louisville got Ganseyed. Got Collinized.

It got Pittsnogled in a way nobody else has.

"I had heard rumors that I couldn't dunk, so I figured I would get some today," said Kevin Pittsnogle. "You probably won't see those the rest of the year, though."

Why not? The center twice flushed a deuce on the Cards, rinsing away any residue from the cesspool performance at Syracuse.

"It," J.D. Collins said, "was one of the greatest dunks ever." It doesn't matter to which he referred. A great Pittsnogle dunk is one that goes down – and he should continue to pound it versus Pitt. Stopping is akin to helping opponents. It was, one recalls, Pittsnogle's jam against the Panthers last year that helped WVU rally past its rival. It reads here to go strong every time.

So though the 68-64 win isn't the stuff of legend – Louisville is 17-10 and, at 5-9 in the Big East, in danger of not making the postseason tournament – it shows much about the Mountaineers.

West Virginia can use its inside game when the outside is shut down. It can't be dominant, like Connecticut or Syracuse (remember, too, that U of L lost its starting center prior to the game), but it can use the inside to open the outside. That will be a postseason key.

It can get to the free throw line, as the 16 second half shots attest, though just two players (Herber, Collins with eight each) combined for all the attempts. It can still play the elegant game we loved so much, the cutting, screening, heady style.

And it can mix it with some blue-collar throwdowns, some gritty drives and just enough attitude to hush, if not silence, foes like Taquan Dean: "When we get to New York, teams are going to be afraid to face us. It's not over until the last game."


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