Unexpected Outcome

Like most observers, head coach John Beilein was surprised to see the point totals put up by West Virginia and Rutgers in the Mountaineers' 89-83 win.

"This time of year, it's rare when you don't see a game that's a defensive struggle," the veteran coach said the day after the win. "Last night, both teams were on fire, and neither one could stop the other. We were just fortunate to make enough shots to win."

Of course, it's no surprise when West Virginia makes a high percentage of its shots, as the Mountaineers did against the Scarlet Knights. Beilein recruits shooters first and foremost, and if all get hot on the same night, games such as Wednesday night's are bound to result. The Mountaineers made 14 of their 21 three point chances to keep Rutgers at bay.

With the well-beaten topic of getting a road win now hopefully put to bed, West Virginia will bounce right back to New Jersey for a weekend game against Seton Hall.

"This is the second quick turnaround we have had," said Beilein, referring to back-to-back road games on Wednesday and Saturday (Notre Dame and Marquette was the first). "I've watched Coach Gonzalez' team, for a while, and I have tremendous respect for the way they play. I've watched two games and clips of some others. We will spend today to get a plan together to try to get a win there."


Injured guard Joe Mazzulla could see action against the Pirates, but that is not a certainty.

"We will find out more today," Beilein reported. "We will try to put him through a real good workout today. He got it in the Marshall game and made both foul shots, but then it began to swell up. Deep thigh bruises are tough. He is a young, strong and muscular kid, and when it gets in there it's tough to work out. We thought he had a chance to play last night, but in warm-ups he didn't feel like he could give us anything. At this point, what you don't want is another shot to it."

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Beilein believes that his team's camaraderie – the chemistry he always looks for – has been an important factor in its 17-4 record.

"I think they are great kids. They get along," he explained. "I sensed in the last two weeks that they genuinely like each other on and off the court, and they play that way on the court. Of course, winning helps with that.

"It starts with the upperclassmen. With Frank, and Darris, and Rob, and Ted, showing them how to accept their roles. And the coaching staff is learning more about them too. We are able to push them more toward their strengths. We have been trying to figure that out all year long, and that is something we are doing better."

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You could almost hear the sigh of dismay when Beilein was once again asked, by someone that has heard the answer at least 20 times this year, if he was surprised by West Virginia's record. And when that was followed by another question about the importance of getting a road win, yet another topic that has been beaten into a shapeless mass, his patience was likely again tested.

To his credit, Beilein again answered both questions, but you would think as some point that people who have heard the same answers over and over would get the idea that there's nothing to be gained by asking the same questions again and again.

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WVU's 65.2% shooting mark from the field against Rutgers was the Mountaineers' best mark ever in a Big East contest.

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Four Big East players made the midseason list of 30 candidates for the Wooden Award – again showing the strength of the conference. Pitts' Aaron Gray, Syracuse's Demetris Nichols, Villanova's Curtis Sumpter and Marquette's Dominic James are all on the list. Kevin Pittsnogle made the candidates' list a year ago for West Virginia.

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