WVU Opens Big East Campaign With Win

West Virginia turned the tables on Miami with some pressure defense of their own in a 68-63 upset win at the WVU Coliseum on Tuesday.

Miami (7-5, 0-1) came into the game with the reputation of being able to press and create turnovers. While WVU's defensive intensity was of a different variety than Miami's full court, on the ball style, it was nonetheless more effective. The Mountaineers double teamed Hurricanes Darius Rice and James Jones relentlessly on the blocks and along the baseline, harassing the duo into a combined 11-35 shooting performance from the field. West Virginia held Miami's entire team to a 38% shooting mark from the floor as they opened the Big East conference season with a solid home court win.

"We've been working on the double team all year," freshman center Kevin Pittsnogle said after the game. "We knew they were very good in the post, so we knew we had to double them down there."

Head coach John Beilein, while admittedly a perfectionist, said it was probably the best overall defensive performance of the season.

"Defensively, we followed the game plan and did out best to stop their top two players," Beilein noted.

West Virginia (9-3, 1-0) also did an outstanding job on the rest of the Hurricanes, limiting nine other Miami players to a total of just 13 made shots.

In addition to shoring up their interior defense, WVU also went to work on the backboards. After giving up a slew of offensive stickbacks on their recent three game road swing, the Mountaineers often limited the Hurricanes to just one shot. While Miami did mange 12 offensive boards, WVU was able to counter with eight of their own.

West Virginia also responded to the challenge of hitting free throws in critical situations down the stretch to seal the victory. Miami began fouling the Mountaineers with 2:29 to go in the game, but WVU, despite being the worst free throw shooting team in the Big East, responded nicely to the challenge. WVU hit nine of 14 free throws in the game's final three minutes to maintain the lead which they held throughout the entire second half.

The game began rather slowly, with each team missing several shots in the early going. WVU finally broke the ice on a Drew Schifino jumper with 17:18 to go in the half, but the score didn't exactly open the floodgates. WVU led 27-24 at the half, as both teams shot the ball poorly. West Virginia was 37% from the field in the opening stanza, while Miami managed just 37%.

The second half opened up a bit, as both teams were able to establish a bit of offense. West Virginia never relinquished their halftime lead, although Miami was able to tie the game once at 35 and cut the margin to one on a couple of other occasions. From that 35 all tie, WVU went on a slow, but steady 14-5 run to moved their lead out to nine points.

For WVU, Drew Schifino led the way with 20 points, followed by Kevin Pittsnogle's 19. Patrick Beilein added 11 on the strength of three 3-point field goals. The Mountianeers took another small step up in free throw shooting as well. After not getting to the line at all in the slow paced first half, WVU made 18-27 shots from the line in the second.

WVU will get a day off from practice later this week amidst preparations for a trip to Georgetown on Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

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