Not Enough

This time, West Virginia couldn't dig itself out of a big early hole. Missed opportunities from the foul line, an occasionally stagnant offense and a defense that struggled all game long doomed the No. 5 Mountaineers in an 82-75 loss to Villanova in a Big Monday game at the WVU Coliseum.

After a series of second half comebacks in recent weeks, it seemed as though everything was going according to script when the Mountaineers rallied to within three points of VU on multiple occasions in the second half.

That came after the visitors had held an 11-point lead at the intermission, and still held just as big of an advantage with as little as 10:28 remaining.

But almost predictably, West Virginia went on a quick 12-4 run, getting to within 62-59 when Devin Ebanks threw down a monstrous, one-handed dunk on a fast break with 8:13 to go.

"Their reputation of coming back was a fear for us, because we've always lost here," said Wildcats head coach Jay Wright, whose squads had lost their last four games in Morgantown before Monday.

But No. 4 Villanova (21-2, 10-1) made its next three field goal attempts -- scoring both inside and outside, as it did all night -- to promptly re-open a slight cushion at 68-61 with 6:16 to go.

The Wildcats scored only on dunks, free throws and layups from there -- not needing a single jump shot to push the lead back to as many as nine points and cruise down the stretch to a win.

Indeed, normally defensive-minded Mountaineers failed to contain the guard-oriented attack of VU, allowing the visitors to score more points than any other West Virginia opponent had tallied in regulation all season.

Of course, the Wildcats' torrid shooting from the field didn't hurt their cause. Villanova shot 29-of-51 from the field (59.9 percent) and hit 19 of its 22 attempts from the free throw line.

That was one more point from the charity stripe than WVU managed, in spite of the fact that it had 10 more attempts than its opposition.

"I mean, come on," was all that Mountaineer head coach Bob Huggins could manage, trying to sum up his feelings on the monumental free throw percentage disparity.

"It's a hard league. It's really hard when you go 18-for-32 from the foul line. That makes it harder."

Defensively, Huggins' trademark man-to-man defense struggled to deny dribble penetration.

A brief switch to the 1-3-1 zone defense that has proven to be an effective change-up in recent games proved equally fruitless, as VU reversed the ball with efficiency and scored almost at will when the Mountaineers went to the zone in the first half.

The results were disastrous, as the Wildcats knocked down open looks, as well as those that were occasionally contested.

"They're good when they're able to step behind ball screens and make shots," Huggins said. "We tried to use our length to make it hard for them and try to stay in front of them. And we tried to get our guys to stay down, because they're very good at pump-faking and jumping into you."

"We didn't do a very good job, obviously. The two guys we told them to stay down on (Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher, who took all but two of VU's 22 free throws) are 17-of-20 from the foul line. So yeah, they're very good."

Despite using a four guard lineup, Villanova outrebounded WVU 38-30. It even held a 38-30 lead in terms of points in the paint, in spite of the fact that West Virginia's lineup is generally longer and taller.

"We get outrebounded by eight, and that hasn't happened all year," Huggins said, seemingly mystified. "They played four guards, basically. He put some big young kids in a bit, but they basically played four guards, and we didn't rebound the ball."

That was increasingly surprising to the third-year Mountaineer head coach because of the way Villanova committed to face-guarding Da'Sean Butler.

The senior forward struggled all game long against the scrappy Wildcats, hitting only two field goals (both from 3-point range) on 12 attempts. He still managed 13 points by being one of the few WVU players to find any success at the charity stripe, scoring 7-of-10 of those shots.

But only one of his 13 points came in the second half, even as West Virginia rallied to within three points of the visitors on multiple occasions after trailing by 11 points at halftime.

"We can't expect Da' to get 30 every game and carry us," Huggins said. "Our other guys are going to have to do things. When they're chasing him around and giving that much attention, how do we not get a rebound?"

The impact of Butler's struggles was somewhat minimized by the play of reserve guard Casey Mitchell.

After struggling with his shot almost all season, and watching his few minutes become even more rare, the junior college transfer had 12 points in only nine minutes.

"We didn't do a very good job of screening for (Butler), and they went triangle-and-two a bunch in the second half," Huggins said. "But Casey gets 12 in nine minutes when they go triangle-and-two, so it's not a bad trade-off, really. He had a couple more that almost went down."

But even that rare bit of offensive help from the bench wasn't enough to overcome the defensive woes of the Mountaineers, who, in the head coach's eyes, failed to take advantage of the natural advantages they had over Villanova.

"The strength of (the 1-3-1 zone) for us is our length, and if you stand there with your hands down, they'll pick you apart. And they did," Huggins said. "We just didn't do as good a job getting in passing lanes and using our length to our advantage. They exposed it."

"When we don't use our length, we become more like them. Our strength is our length. Our strength is not what their strength is. When we drop down from our length to where they are, we're going to get beat. It's pretty simple."

For the Wildcats, Reynolds led the way, scoring a game-high 21 points. All but two of those came in the second half, and 10 of those 19 points in the final 20 minutes came on his 10 attempts from the charity stripe. The senior added five assists and three steals.

Fisher added 17 more, despite accounting for all three Villanova misses from the foul line. Still, he made seven free throws in his own right and converted four of five attempts from the field in only 22 minutes of play.

West Virginia, which had risen to No. 5 in the Associated Press rankings earlier Monday, fell to 19-4 overall and 8-3 in Big East Conference play. It was led offensively by Darryl "Truck" Bryant's 15 points. Butler and Ebanks had 13 each, while Mitchell had 12 and Kevin Jones managed 11.

Things get little easier for Huggins and company, who now must prepare to travel to the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh for a game against a Panthers squad that will be looking to earn revenge for last week's 70-51 defeat at the Coliseum in the first installment of the Backyard Brawl.

"I'm taking (Friday) off to go recruit," Huggins said, wryly.


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