Positive thoughts and performances were few and far between in West Virginia's 63-54 loss to Louisville at Freedom Hall Thursday night.
Senior center Jamie Smalligan had the thankless and unenviable task of putting up with Louisville's big bodies inside, but held his own enough to earn BlueGoldNews.com's Player of the Game honors on a night in which selecting that award was tougher than a five dollar steak.
Smalligan scored just three points, but snared seven rebounds against U of L's front line of David Padgett, Juan Palacios, and Derrick Caracter.
The recipe for disaster is quite simple for West Virginia in its two Big East losses. In losses to Notre Dame and U of L, the Mountaineers have scored just 56 and 54 points, respectively. WVU shot just 20-55 overall from the field, including a paltry 4-17 from behind the three-point arc. Making matters worse was a 10-18 performance from the foul line.
The Mountaineers were rattled early by Louisville's variety of defenses, and not until late in the second half did West Virginia ever look comfortable attacking any of Rick Pitino's defensive looks.
Point guard Joe Mazzulla was limited to just seven minutes on the night, and did not play after halftime. Mazzulla has been bothered by a bruised thigh for the past several games. His absence in the second half shortened West Virginia's eight-man rotation by a man, which when combined with foul trouble plaguing several Mountaineer players on the night proved to be bad news for the Blue and Gold.