Bright spots weren't just far between in inarguably West Virginia's most lackadaisical performance of the season. No, like the moon Wednesday, it was nearly a blackout.
Among the lone highlights was backup point guard Joe Mazzulla. The sophomore played 30 minutes and scored a team-best tying 11 points (Joe Alexander), including hitting five of eight from the foul line. He also had five rebounds and continued to hustle even as the clock got within five minutes. Mazzulla stole a ball at midcourt when the game was clearly over to hit a lay-up, then fell to the floor on a tip out and pass from another player a few possessions later. It was a display lacking from the vast majority of other Mountaineers, who appeared to quit when Villanova took control early. WVU never wanted to, and indeed, refused to, try to comeback – though that can't be written of Mazzulla.
He asserted himself well in every phase, which could have been a key as Darris Nichols struggled. The senior missed six of seven from behind the arc and scored just five points in his 130th career game. Mazzulla also did enough on the boards to win, though that didn't matter with a lack of support from the remaining cast.
Wellington Smith. The forward had his second consecutive solid game with eight points and seven rebounds. He also tallied two blocks, but had three turnovers. It did appear, at least in stretches, that Smith was competing. But there was simply too much from Villanova, which made 10 3-pointers and made 20 of 23 free throws. With numbers like that, a lack of much of anything inside the Pavilion will get teams beat, something made crystal clear to the Mountaineers tonight.
Bob Huggins. The coach gets a nod because of his ability to relax when his team had decided to do the same. Huggins could have had a tizzy – for lack of a more fitting word for trying to coach the uncoachable – in trying to motivate a team that had plainly quit. The first-year coach didn't continually rail upon his squad, and at one point sat with his head on his hand while an elbow rested on the scorers table. There is often only so much one can do, and Huggins realized both West Virginia's mindset and intensity were shot with less than 15 minutes played. If it reads like we're reaching here, it's because, frankly, we are. This team has shown flashes of brilliance and flashes of dog-poo play. Call it a transition year if you want, but this team is as up and down as a roller coaster at this point. No doubt, Huggins has some motion sickness.
West Virginia won the second half, 35-33, and actually got decent looks. That's something to at least look to, if not build upon. The Mountaineers also head home, which should help. It has a struggling Providence team on Saturday in a double-header with the women's team. The Friars are often good for what ails, and with this loss, it's time to gut out the remainder of the season and see what can be salvaged. Tickets are sold out – though it remains to be seen if the crowd will be near capacity after this display.