Sin City Sights

LAS VEGAS -- Notes, observations and other musings from the semifinal round of the Las Vegas Invitational.

Perhaps the lone sore spot of West Virginia's dominating 87-68 win over Iowa in the semifinals of the Las Vegas Invitational was a 15-34 effort from the foul line on the night. Included in that total is an anemic 5-22 mark in the second half.

So, what happened? And, although it's early in the season, is this some sort of red flag for the Mountaineers? In his postgame remarks, head coach Bob Huggins didn't sound too worried about it looking ahead.

"It's just a matter of concentration, and it's kind of like a disease," he said. "Free throw shooting is a disease. You have one guy up there and he clanks like four of them, and then you put somebody else up there who ought to make them but then he misses them."

The "disease" spread all throughout West Virginia's bench against the Hawkeyes, even infecting the team's most reliable shooters. Senior Alex Ruoff, who finished with 13 points in 36 minutes, missed one of two free throws following a technical foul on Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter.

"When Ruoff goes up there and misses one then we've got issues," noted Huggins. "The kid I had in at the end of the game who hit the three, Josh Sowards, is our best shooter by far and then he goes up there and misses. It's just like a disease. It's a disease you don't want to get. We shoot it better than that, obviously."

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Although West Virginia's game against Kentucky in the championship round will be listed as a neutral court game, Orleans Arena might Rupp West. The big blue faithful came out in droves for UK's two-point win over Kansas State in Friday's other semifinal.

In fact, the loudest ovation of the WVU-Iowa game came when the Wildcats entered the arena to sit and watch a portion of the second half. The second loudest cheer came a few minutes later when the players began to make their way to the locker room.

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Speaking of the Kentucky faithful, this audible exchange between a pair of Kentucky fans was too good to leave out of the notebook. To set the scene, a foul has just been called on UK point guard Michael Porter.

UK Fan 1: "I do not agree with that call Mr. Referee. I respectfully disagree with the call that you just made.

UK Fan 2: "You suck ref!"

UK Fan 1: "Yeah, what he said sir but without the vulgarity."

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Of the four coaches in the tournament, Iowa's Lickliter is by far the most mild-mannered. Whereas Kansas State's Frank Martin, Kentucky's Billy Gillespie and West Virginia's Huggins are intense and animated on the sidelines, Lickliter stoically stands by the bench internalizing the action on the court.

Ironically, the only technical foul handed out on Friday night was to Lickliter. So, what did he do to draw the ire of the official following a physical sequence on an Iowa possession?

"I asked him what he was watching," Lickliter shrugged afterward. "Exact quote, ‘What are you watching?' Tech."

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The Hawkeyes struggled to execute their methodical but effective half-court sets against WVU's physical man-to-man defense for much of the night. This was most apparent in the first half when the Hawkeyes turned the ball over 17 times, leading to 29 points off of turnovers for the Mountaineers.

"When I looked at the score at halftime and saw we shot like 60 percent (11-18) from the field but we were down 20 or whatever it was, my goodness," Lickliter said. "It's amazing. Their level of aggressiveness and physicalness was just something that we haven't experienced."

West Virginia's suffocating defense wasn't the only thing that left Lickliter impressed.

"That is a very skilled basketball team that's well-coached," he explained. "You make a mistake, and you're going to pay for it because they shoot it so well and they find one another. It's one of those things. We couldn't keep them off the glass. They beat us in just about every category.

"I think they're really a nice team."

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Las Vegas is and always has been synonymous with entertainment. Might the next great Las Vegas entertainer have West Virginia ties?

During a break in the Kentucky game, the video board at the Orleans Arena was scanning the crowd looking for fans dancing to "Cotton Eye Joe". The search ended when the camera found Mountaineer Sports Network color analyst Jay Jacobs showing off his dance-floor moves.

How good was Jacobs? During the next media timeout, instead of scanning the crowd again, they simply ran a slow-motion replay of Jacobs.

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A number of NBA scouts were in attendance for Friday's games. Among them was Sacramento Kings General Manager Geoff Petrie and Minnesota Timberwolves assistant GM Fred Hoiberg.

Ryan West, who scouts the western portion of the country for the Memphis Grizzlies, was also in attendance. West is the son of WVU and NBA legend Jerry West, and the older brother to WVU guard Jonnie.


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