The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

January 27, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN: Tough way to take loss

LOUISVILLE — Normally, Truck Bryant can make free throws blindfolded.

He was shooting 81.6 percent from the free-throw line entering Wednesday night’s game against Louisville.

He made his first six in the game.

Then he began shooting as if he were really blindfolded … missed his seventh, missed his eighth, missed his ninth and his 10th.

Need we say more? Final score: Louisville 55, West Virginia University 54.

“I’m an 80 percent free-throw shooter,” Bryant would say in the gloom that hung heavily as the Mountaineer players stood outside their locker room door. “Eighty-percent! No way I miss my last four.”

He thought for a moment.

“I’m not saying this loss was my fault, but I’ll man up,” he said.

Indeed, as important as those free throws were down the stretch in a one-point game, they certainly no more important than the 18 shots he and his teammates missed from the floor in the second half.

Eighteen, for goodness sake! Oh, there were four baskets, for a second-half shooting percentage of 18.2 percent.

Listen up, because this is difficult to imagine, even without the suspended Casey Mitchell.

West Virginia went from 15:08 of the second half to 1:28 left in the game when Dalton Pepper hit a clutch 3-pointer without making a basket.

“It was a long drought,” Joe Mazzulla would admit.

If it really were a drought, it would be featured on the History Channel, so long was it.

The Oklahoma dust bowl was a fruited plain compared to the Mountaineer offense in that second half.

“Frustrating, very frustrating,” said an unbelieving senior center Cam Thoroughman. “It wasn’t like we were trying to miss.”

It just looked like they were.

“We just didn’t make a shot,” coach Bob Huggins said of the second half. “When you don’t make a shot and you have my two returning starters (Kevin Jones and John Flowers) going five for 21, it gets tighter.”

The shame was that the only guy who wasn’t really wasn’t part of “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” was the guy who probably should have been shooting, Mazzulla.

Mazzulla literally willed WVU into an 11-point halftime lead, slashing to the basket and even hitting two 3-pointers. Consider the likelihood of that, as he had only one coming into the game in each of the last three years.

Huggins jokingly had told him he would be the secret weapon as they played shorthanded, although it wasn’t really that much of a joke because they had worked on his mechanics with Mitchell not in the mix and with Bryant in a shooting slump.

By halftime Mazzulla had 18 points – his career high.

In the second half, however, he shot the ball just twice, missing both.

“They closed up the gaps,” he said, referring to the areas he was able to squeeze through to get to the basket in the first half. “I wasn’t going to go out there and just shoot.”

“In the second half they jammed it in there and he couldn’t get it to the rim,” Huggins said.

“He had a couple of shots in the second half that just laid on the rim that didn’t go in. But he has to make some shots. No one in this league is going to let you shoot layups the whole game … except maybe us. We’re very charitable.”

The truth was, Louisville did turn up the pressure on its zone and hit the boards as they had not in the first half, taking WVU out of its offense and leaving it gasping for breath.

While Huggins maintained the Mountaineers did not tire – coaches always say that – Mazzulla admitted that they had tired.

“We were lazy with the ball a few times,” Mazzulla said, saying they had talked about not giving up turnovers that led to layups yet did just that a few times.

With all that, in the end, they still could have and maybe should have won. If two of Bryant’s free throws hadn’t rattled in and out it’s a victory, a crucial one for if they had won they would have been tied for second in the Big East but now are seventh.

And then there was the shot that won the game, an impossible, incredible reverse scoop layup by Peyton Siva between two defenders with 4.5 seconds left.

Tough way to take a loss.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Luck open to WVU fans’ suggestions

    West Virginia’s fans have spoken, perhaps not verbally but nonetheless have had their voices heard, over the past few years as attendance has fallen at the Mountaineers’ football and basketball games.

    April 22, 2014

  • WVU athletic department to form Fan Experience Committee

    The West Virginia University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics is forming a fan experience committee to discuss the needs of Mountaineer fans with the hopes of enhancing the fan experience at its events.

    April 22, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN- Popovich, now 73, wishes he were playing baseball today

    If you’re a long-time baseball fan, you may recall Morgantown’s Paul Popovich.

    April 22, 2014

  • Mountaineers ready for slate of rivalry games

    Looking to put together a late-season run to get into the NCAA championships, West Virginia faces a pair of midweek rivalry games in a crucial five-game week coming off winning two of three games at Oklahoma.

    April 22, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Summer, Alabama will be used to get WVU’s mind right

    The ink had barely dried on the final reports out of West Virginia’s spring practice when thoughts turned forward toward the lazy, hazy days of late summer, days that will bring us into football season with a game that can either change the entire image of WVU football or sour it even further.

    April 21, 2014

  • Arrest warrant out for WVU recruit

    West Virginia University’s newest men’s basketball recruit, Tarik Phillip, has an order out for his arrest in North Carolina, according to a story in The Dominion-Post, which said three Gaston County Magistrate office spokespersons confirmed.

    April 20, 2014

  • WVU baseball powers past Oklahoma, 9-5

    The WVU baseball team tied a season high with 18 hits to defeat Oklahoma, 9-5, on Saturday afternoon at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The win gives the Mountaineers their second Big 12 series win of the season and improves the overall record to 19-16 and 4-7 in conference play. Oklahoma drops to 25-16 overall and 5-7 in Big 12 play.

    April 20, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules

    At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.

    April 18, 2014

  • Means, WVU baseball shut out Oklahoma

    Junior left-hander John Means of the WVU baseball team threw eight shutout innings and the Mountaineers had a five-run first inning en route to a 7-0 victory over Oklahoma on Thursday evening at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The Mountaineers (18-15, 3-6 Big 12) broke a six-game Big 12 losing streak after being swept by TCU and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weekends. WVU had 16 hits and did not make an error for the second-straight game.

    April 18, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Dr. Graber disagrees with Gee’s stance on Turnbull firing

    Dr. Stephen Graber, an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is among the latest WVU teachers to deplore Oliver Luck’s firing of veteran wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.
    He raised some significant questions about that issue last Monday in a meeting of the WVU Faculty Senate.

    April 18, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos