The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

February 8, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN - WVU men in deep trouble

MORGANTOWN — The time has finally come for reality to set in around here.

You aren’t going to like it, so if you bleed blue and gold, maybe you ought to be turning the Dear Abby or Blondie, do a crossword or read your horoscope.

After all, that’s what Bob Huggins did last night against Pitt. He read his “Horrorscope” and it was as ugly as the 71-66 loss he took to the nation’s No. 4 team as it won its 22nd game against two losses.

See, a year ago when miracles were happening, basketball was a fun time.

Now the miracles have turned in “Miracle Whip” and it’s the Mountaineers who are getting “whipped.”

Why.

Because they just aren’t very good.

Ask Huggins. Ask what happened before a crowd of 14,175 fun-loving fans and a national television audience.

“They outmanned us,” he said. “They beat us to death on the offensive glass. They drove it where they wanted to drive it. They just outmanned us.”

There are any number of ways to show how Pitt outmanned WVU, the emphasis on “man.”

Pitt scored 42 points in the paint. West Virginia had 24.

Many of them came on second shots. Some on third shots. Maybe even one or two on a fourth shot.

Offensive rebounds read 18 for Pitt, 8 for West Virginia. More important, Kevin Jones had five of WVU’s offensive rebounds. Second in offensive rebounds was team with two, those being shots that were blocked and swatted out of bounds.

Truck Bryant had one fall into his hands, to account for the others. Cam Thoroughman, John Flowers, Deniz Kilicili had none.

“We wanted to cut down their offensive rebounds,” Pitt Coach Jamie Dixon allowed. “They average 15 in conference and we really cut it in half. That was a great sign.”

The WVU players knew they were getting cut to shreds on the offensive boards in the second half.

“They kept attacking, kept going after the ball and we relaxed,” Kevin Jones said. “Against a good team like Pitt, especially when their best player is out we have to take advantage. All five of them attacked the glass. If one guy missed another came after it.”

The boards made a difference, a big difference, so much so that Pitt had 30 possessions in the second half and came up without any points on only five of them — and on one of them Kevin Brown missed two free throws.

If that were the only problem, maybe Huggins could fix it, but then there is this thing about shooting the basketball. Someone has got to tell WVU that you are actually allowed to put the ball in the basket.

Honest, even Tim Huggins, who refereed Monday night’s game, will allow that.

WVU decided in this game to work from the inside out, featuring Deniz Kilicli, who had a memorable 19-point game with

a variety of hooks from everywhere but out of bounds.

But he wasn’t alone. They tried Casey Mitchell down low and Joe Mazzulla. It was the game plan.

Why?

“We can’t shoot,” said Huggins. “What do you want me to do? I get tired of watching them miss, I don’t know about you. I have to watch every practice. You don’t. After a while, you’re like ‘Damn!’

“What do you want me to do, trade ‘em? Waive ‘em? I guess I could waive ‘em but I can’t get anybody for them, so. I could sit here and lie to you, if you want,” Huggins said.

WVU was 4 for 17 from 3-point range, which might be a clue as to why they went inside.

More to the point — or rather, the lack of points — guards Joe Mazzulla, Truck Bryant and Casey Mitchell combined to go five for 21 shooting and 1 for 10 from 3-point range, Mitchell possessing the one.

Dalton Pepper did come off the bench to give them a two-for-two performance shooting 3s, but he played only 13 minutes and could not make a difference.

The truth is, West Virginia is in trouble, deep trouble. The Mountaineers have lost four of their last seven games since beating Purdue. They have seven games left, including one at Pitt and one at Syracuse. They play ranked teams in Notre Dame, Connecticut and Louisville at home.

It is not going to be easy to turn things around against that kind of schedule and four more victories give them only 19 for the regular season, which will probably get them an NCAA bid … probably.

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

 

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