Vegas Rewind

Head coach John Beilein recaps the Jim Thorpe Classic in Las Vegas.

"I was really pleased to come out 1-1," Beilein said of the Las Vegas trip. "Last night's game [against Gardner-Webb] I hope was a pivotal one for us. We went through a dry spell where it looked like we weren't playing efficiently and with any energy. Then suddenly we caught a spark and hit some shots."

WVU's bounceback win over the Bulldogs came one night after a gut-wrenching loss to UNLV. West Virginia led that game through most of the second half before giving up a three point play in the final 15 seconds.

Beilein believes that the defensive strategy employed by the Rebels is one that his team will see again. From that standpoint, he thinks that the game was a good experience for his squad.

"UNLV really climbed up on our guards. I don't think it was a road game type of loss where the crowd affected us. We were facing a tremendous, experienced defense, and we were uncharacteristic in our turnovers (the Mountaineers committed 20).

"We made some 50-50 passes. UNLV had very athletic guards: strong, big and long. We'll see more like that in the Big East."

MUSKET BLASTS

Beilein is growing more concerned about the rebounding gap between WVU and its opponents, which grew during the Las Vegas trip. Noting that "seven or eight is ok, but 20 is not", Beilein said that his staff will get back to work on the boards.

"We know we are being outrebounded, but it's not a matter of effort. It's just our body size - we're just continually getting outmuscled. Another year in the weight room and recruiting will help that, but for now we'll just have to work on some different strategies."

Those strategies include changing formations on defense and, despite the lack of overall team strength, working on being more physical while boxing out. While noting that it's more difficult to box out from a zone, especially from a 1-3-1 where defenders tend to get spread out across the floor, Beilein feels there are some signs of improvement.

"We've gone from not boxing out at all to doing it a little. Kevin Pittsnogle got every rebound in sight down the stretch (against Gardner-Webb)."

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A quick glance down the Big East statistical leaders doesn't show many instances of the letters "WVU". That's not a cause of concern for Beilein, who said that has often been the case at other schools he has coached.

"It's rare that we do a lot that highlights one person. We highlight team play," Beilein noted. "You might see us up there in assist to turnover ratio or field goal percentage defense. Those things are what we look for. If we have those two in place, as well as low turnovers, we think we have a chance to be in most games we play."

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Drew Schifino earned a place on the All Tournament Team.

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Beilein on the sparse crowd at the Thomas & Mack Center: "They could have announced the crowd just like they did the starting lineups."

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The team got the chance to spend some time out in Las Vegas on Sunday evening after the game before returning to Morgantown.

"We got a chance to go out last night, and we had a good time," Beilein said. "One of the purposes of this trip was to get the team together for a couple of days, and to spend time together."


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