PoG: WVU - Villanova

Admittedly, the contest for our top honors was more of a battle to see who had made the fewest mistakes, rather than one to determine who had truly excelled the most. On a night when almost every Mountaineer struggled, at least one managed to minimize the damage to his own team.


Kevin Jones.

He was only the fifth-leading scorer for WVU on Monday night, but the sophomore forward managed to contribute in many ways, while not making quite as many key errors.

Jones led the Mountaineers in rebounds with eight, in a rare game that saw West Virginia not get a single player in double figures in that category (and, even more surprisingly, saw it lose the rebounding battle by a staggering eight boards to a team playing four guards).

Seven of those caroms were collected by the Mount Vernon, N.Y., native off the offensive glass. No other West Virginia player managed any more than three of those.

Jones' efforts helped WVU stay close, as the team did manage to lead in second-chance points by an 18-12 margin.

He also had two assists and three blocks, all while committing only one foul (those 20 free throws shot by Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher weren't his fault).

Jones wasn't totally without fault, though. He did make only one of his four free throw attempts, contributing to the abysmal 18-of-32 mark for the Mountaineers from the charity stripe (more on that later).


  • Free throw desparity.

    Villanova scored 19 points from the foul line. WVU managed 18 of its own.

    The problem is, the visitors needed only 22 attempts to do so. The Mountaineers took a staggering 32.

    Despite the (many) other flaws in West Virginia's play against the Wildcats, this story could be a breakdown of yet another second half comeback by head coach Bob Huggins and company if the team had managed to convert a respectable percentage of free throws.

    They simply didn't.

    Jones and Devin Ebanks were both a miserable 1-of-4 from the line. John Flowers hit only one of his three shots from there. Da'Sean Butler even missed three -- but he at least made seven of his 10 attempts.

    WVU got the calls, particularly in the first half. But it simply couldn't make its opponents pay for the decision to foul often enough.

    Combined with the fact that Huggins said his players failed to execute the scouting report on Reynolds (10-of-10 from the line) and Fisher (7-of-10) -- both of whom the head coach said were known to use pump fakes to generate opportunities from the line -- it left little chance for the Mountaineers to dig out of their 11-point hole with just over 10 minutes to go.

  • Villanova's ability to torch the 1-3-1 zone.

    It's been West Virginia's proverbial ace in the hole in recent weeks, changing the course of almost every game.

    The Wildcats, to their credit, knew it. They knew how to attack it. And they executed the plan to the highest possible level.

    With his team struggling early to stop dribble penetration, Huggins went to the 1-3-1 zone in the first half -- far earlier than he has in recent weeks.

    Villanova made sure he knew to not bother trying again by burning it for lay-ups, open jump shots and scores from almost every conceivable spot on the floor.

    Afterwards, Huggins said his team hadn't used its length effectively -- that players didn't keep their hands up to deflect passes. Against a VU team that passes at such a high level, that is a recipe for disaster.

    Left with little other choice, Huggins had to put his team in a man-to-man defense for essentially the whole second half.

    The advantage Reynolds, Fisher and others had off the bounce contributed to the fact that the visitors managed 20 free throw attempts in the final 20 minutes. As we already established, they had little trouble converting from there.

    That made life relatively easy for Jay Wright and company, as they never trailed in the final 34:42 of the contest.

  • Casey Mitchell.

    Okay, we'll admit it. Mitchell is still a defensive liability in a big way.

    But the junior college transfer is hardly alone. And, unlike a lot of his teammates, he at least did something on offense other than stand around and wait for Da'Sean Butler to make shots.

    Mitchell, who has struggled mightily almost all season, had a confidence-building performance, with 12 points in only nine minutes of action. He took advantage of the overly-aggressive defense the Wildcats played to shut down Butler.

    If the guard can string a couple of games like the one he had on Monday night, maybe -- just maybe -- he could find a way to contribute to a team that desperately needs as many scoring options as possible going down the stretch.

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