Young Gets Better Of Life

There's a popular youth group called Young Life that helps teach teens a number of lessons on the path to adulthood. Suffice it to say that the show put on by Frank Young and James Life in West Virginia's 90-77 NIT win over UMass on Thursday might not be shown at the group's next meeting.

Not that WVU's Young did anything bad or over the line as he and Life traded baskets and barbs during the Mountaineers' second round win. It's just that the pair weren't showing much respect for each other as they piled up a combined 51 points in a wild scoring spree. Life yapped and yammered at Young from the outset, even while the West Virginia senior piled up 18 first half points to help his team to a 37-23 halftime lead, and the volume and intensity only increased when the UMass bully heated up in the second half with four three-pointers to help the Minutemen cut WVU's lead to four.

"I've never had anybody talk that much," Young said after the game. "Playing with Kevin [Pittsnogle] and Mike [Gansey], maybe nobody paid that much attention to me before. He was talking the whole game."

The normally mild-mannered Young kept his cool for the most part, but couldn't resist flinging a couple of barbs in Life's direction as the Mountaineers retook control. He reminded him several times to look at the scoreboard, which showed WVU in front throughout, and delivered a personal coup de grace after scoring over his loquacious foe on a full court run-out from an out of bounds play.

"I asked him, ‘Where are you at now?' Young said with a sheepish laugh after hauling in a perfectly thrown long ball from teammate Alex Ruoff and taking it to the rack over his foe. "I don't mind to talk during the game, but this was the most I've ever been a part of."

True to his nature, however, it was actions, not words, that delivered a final riposte that was more devastating than anything he could have said. That was his final three-pointer, a deep bomb from the right wing with 2:06 to go that pushed WVU's lead to 12 at 85-73 and nailed the final spike into UMass' upset hopes.

Life wasn't the only person paying attention to Young throughout the game. UMass coach Travis Ford noted that his game plan centered on stopping the Mountaineer star (whether that included the trash talk is debatable), but that not much worked.

"Our whole game plan was to try to stop him, and when he still gets 30 points, that tells you what kind of player he is. He's the best shooter I've seen all year," the ex-Kentucky point guard said.

Young, for his part, stayed cool despite the increased attention.

"I know they were just trying to get me upset and maybe get a technical or something," he said in describing UMass' strategy. "I just had to keep my cool and keep playing.

Despite clutching and grabbing tactics that would have earned penalties in a hockey game, Young was able to shake free for enough looks, and more importantly, convert them, to break WVU's NIT scoring record of 30, formerly held by guard Diego McCoy. McCoy tossed in his points against Tulsa in the semifinals of the 1981 NIT at Madison Square Garden. Young's six three pointers also moved him into a tie with Chris Leonard for most treys in a season (101). Barring a strange turn of events, Young will become the sole record holder next Tuesday, when the Mountaineers face either Marist or N.C. State.

"Having played with guys like Kevin Pittsnogle, it's a surprise to me," said Young as he commented on the single season mark he now co-owns. "I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates for this too."

Spoken, in the end, like a true Young Lifer.

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