Intelligent Resistance

To note that Weyinmi Efejuku surprised West Virginia in its first outing against Providence would be an understatement. Truth is, the guard was barely on the radar during game planning.

The sophomore averages 12 points in league play, and shoots a pedestrian 39.6 percent from the floor and 30.4 from 3-point range. Yet Efejuku, who has made just 21 threes all year, hit four treys against WVU, two when he drained back-to-back outside shots that allowed Providence to build a six-point lead at 54-48 with 5:44 remaining. It finished a 22-9 PC run in the Friars' 64-61 win and was part of his game-high 24 points, a shocking number to the Mountaineers, who were trying to limit forward Geoff McDermott and center Herbert Hill.

At least that much was accomplished. Hill tallied 12 points and McDermott added eight, a far cry from their combined season averages of 30 points per game. But that singular focus belied a larger problem. The tight focus on the interior play allowed Efejuku to shake loose often and get great looks, which lifted a mundane shooter into one that made four 3-pointers, six of seven free throws and seven of 14 shots from the field in addition to grabbing seven rebounds.

"Hill, we spent too much time and concentrated too much on him," WVU guard Alex Ruoff said. "I don't know how to pronounce that guy's name, but No. 13 (Efejuku) had a great game against us. So we're not going to concentrate too much on any player, but just play good defense."

West Virginia has indeed learned from the experience. Tape revealed a series of miscommunications on defense and traps down low that opened other areas. And though the Mountaineers (21-8, 9-7 Big East) held Providence (18-11, 8-8) well below its season Big East-average of 72.1 points per game, the Friars managed to convert 14 of 24 shots (58.3 percent) in the second half on a series of great looks and open threes – PC was four of six from long range in the last 20 minutes, a model of balance and resourcefulness for a team that has made 33.3 percent during the conference season.

"They are very efficient in how they play," West Virginia head coach John Beilein said of Providence. "They show one thing and do another, and many times that got us confused. We have to talk and be in good defensive position. We gave them several points out of timeouts and they executed a beautiful play and we miscommunicate what our approach should be."

Now, Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the first round of the Big East Tournament, the teams meet again. West Virginia is looking to secure its third consecutive NCAA berth, a win over Providence perhaps jumpstarting a run. The Friars, outside of the NCAA bubble, will try to sweep WVU for just the second time in series history (1999) and win its 12th game in 21 tries versus the Mountaineers.

"We have to stay more focused and communicate more," WVU first-team Big East selection Frank Young said. "We were in a funk all game. It's something we will correct. We have to play better. We are definitely better than we were last game. We are always communicating and huddling up and talking about things we need to do better."

Both teams should certainly play better this time than the last. Providence had just played games at then-No. 7 Pitt and Notre Dame before hosting St. John's, all within seven days. West Virginia settled for 41 3-pointers in the first game, missed 32, and lacked any enthusiasm or fire on either ends of the floor. Blame the game's schedule location after Pitt, UCLA, Georgetown and Seton Hall and before the second contest against Pitt, this one on the road. Or blame West Virginia for settling on both sides and taking a somewhat nearsighted defensive stance. Either way, more balanced scoring and approaches appear likely in the second contest.

"I don't think they played well. They were tired," Ruoff said. "They will play much better. Defensively, we are going to try to limit the mental mistakes. We had a lot of clips nobody had an answer for. Breakdowns, us concentrating on Hill too much and other players getting wide open shots. If we can limit and learn from our mistakes and let go of them when we make them, we should be all right."


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