The Times West Virginian

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WVU Sports

March 17, 2010

Late game struggles

WVU opponents having easy time scoring near end


It has been lost in the glow of a Big East championship, lost in the heroics Da’Sean Butler has brought over and over and over.

Somehow, though, it was not lost on Butler and not lost on Coach Bob Huggins, this strange phenomena that has occurred this year.

It seems as heroic as the Mountaineers have been, so, too have been their opponents.

It was Michael Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail who brought it to the forefront during Wednesday’s interviews before the West Virginia Mountaineers headed for Buffalo and a first-round meeting with Morgan State in the NCAA Tournament.

He had gone back through the season and discovered that in the final seconds of games when opponents needed to hit a shot, they did so with such great regularity that he estimated it at 90 percent, although one suspects it only seemed like that.

In some ways it was an extension of the Mountaineers’ strangest shortcoming of the season. The team’s greatest shortcoming has been its own inability to make shots, their field goal percentage of 43.4 percent ranking 12th in the 16-team conference.

The strangest is that they have not stopped other teams from making shots. While they have allowed only 63.8 points a game, which ranks second in the conference behind Pitt, they give up 42.4 percent of field goals tried, which is eighth in the conference.

Scoring against WVU is tough, making baskets not so tough … and that geometrically multiplies into the final seconds of games.

It almost doesn’t matter who it is. Pitt needs a basket to win, Ashton Gibbs drops one in from left field. Seton Hall needs a basket to tie in the closing seconds and hits one from 30 feet. Cincinnati needs a 3-point basket to tie in the Big East Tournament, Lance Stephenson drops one in. And in the next game Notre Dame’s Ben Hansbro brings the team back with consecutive late 3s.

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