"I don't want to say our heart wasn't in it, but it wasn't the same passion that we had yesterday against Connecticut," guard Alex Ruoff said following the 72-55 loss to the Hoyas that bounced the Mountaineers from the Big East tournament. "It wasn't the same hungriness, and it showed."
There certainly didn't appear to be any quit in the Mountaineers, who battled back to cut the lead to four points at one juncture in the second half, but at the same time, the hard edge which the Mountaineers displayed against the Huskies seemed to be missing. Georgetown won fights for loose balls and turned them into points, and when they had opportunities in transition or off scramble plays, were often unable to convert.
"It was just lack of effort," Ruoff continued. "There was some missed communication, but it was a lack of effort. I was responsible for a wide open three, and a couple other guys made mistakes. When we came in at halftime, we learned that 15 of their points were in transition, and that's inexcusable. You can't dig yourself a hole against a team like Georgetown and expect to win the game."
What made the failures in transition even more puzzling was the fact that the Mountaineers were excellent in that play phase against UConn one night earlier. The Huskies, known for their fast break and transition offense, were never able to get that going against WVU. However, Georgetown, not renowned as an uptempo team, got numerous lay-up, dunks and open shots on early opportunity chances. And when those points were combined with Roy Hibbert's dominance on the offensive end of the court, West Birginia simply couldn't hold the Hoyas down long enough to mount any sort of a sustained rally.
"We didn't make those kind of mistakes at our place, and that's why the game was much closer there," Ruoff said of the earlier meeting at WVU, when Georgetown needed a three-pointer and a controversial blocked shot to steal away with a win."
The question now for West Virginia is a simple one. Can it again bounce back from a tough defeat -- this time to make some noise int he NCAA tournament? The pattern is one that has been repetitive for WVU this year. Win two or three games, become satisfied with that achievement, then lay down a subpar performance that has as much to do with West Virginia's lack of effort as it does the play of its opponents. Ruoff and others on the team acknowledge the problem, and hope that the lesson has finally sunk in.
"We have been called out that we're not playing hard anyomre and that we're satisfied," he said of West Virginia's up and down play. "Once we get after it and play hard, play hungry, we're fine, and we can beat teams like Connecticut. We have to be able to keep that going."
West Virginia has one more chance, on the biggest stage of them all, to prove they have learned that lesson. But unlike previous times this year, there are no more do-overs left.