The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

February 18, 2011

WVU, Notre Dame headed in opposite directions

MORGANTOWN — There came a time, in the middle of what has become a magical season for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, when the sky seemed to be caving in upon them.

After they had won 14 of their first 16 games, the only losses being at Kentucky and at Syracuse, they found themselves being kicked in the teeth on the Big East road by Marquette and St. John’s.

The losses to a pair of teams not in the elite of the nation’s most elite conference — the first by 22 points and the second by 18 — left everyone who knows anything about the Irish shaking their heads, saying “same old Notre Dame,” can’t win away from home, can’t really contend in the Big East.

The only people who weren’t shaken up by the back-to-back beatings were the men who resided within the Notre Dame locker room, a veteran, experienced group.

“You understand in this league you are going to have to take some blows and how do you respond,” coach Mike Brey, said. “Everyone in the league has gone through their rough stuff. The ones that can respond are the ones that get the NCAA Tournament bid. The ones that don’t respond fall by the wayside.”

Notre Dame responded spectacularly and has not lost since, coming into the Coliseum to play a 1 p.m. game Saturday against a West Virginia University team that is faced with the same kind of dilemma.

The Irish are sporting a 21-4 record and a 10-3 mark in the Big East, ranked No. 7/8 in the country, and they come across a West Virginia team that is spiraling seemingly out of control in the opposite direction.

West Virginia has lost three of its last four, leaving the Mountaineers at 16-9 and 7-6 in the conference and that is not lost on Brey at all.

“I don’t know that we need a new crusade,” Brey said, “but we realize we are playing a team with its back against the wall.”

Certainly West Virginia is desperate for answers. The Mountaineers are without any offense at all, having problems scoring 60 points in a game.

“We haven’t played badly,” coach Bob Huggins said. “We just haven’t shot well.”

With a difficult schedule ahead, five games against Notre Dame, at Pittsburgh, at Rutgers, then home for Connecticut and Louisville, nothing is assured the Mountaineers, although Brey indicated on his weekly conference call that he believes WVU is a shoo-in for the NCAA bid.

“They are an easy NCAA Tournament team,” Brey said. “They are going to be in with strength of schedule.”

One man’s opinion, but if you are going to make any kind of reservations for the NCAAs right now, make sure they are refundable.

Notre Dame expects a tough time in the Coliseum, especially walking into one of the fiercest atmospheres in college basketball.

“Top three,” said Brey, when asked about the Coliseum scene. “They whip it up. They’ll be ready for us. There’s a reunion of sorts going on. Maybe Jerry West will run out and go in the layup line with the team. I have a feeling they’ll be game ready.”

The way the Mountaineers have been shooting of late, West would be welcome, that is for certain.

This is a team that has shot 39 percent in its last three losses.

“They are trying to find who they are offensively,” Brey said, forgetting that we are now in the home stretch of the season, a bit late for a team to shape its identity. “They’ve missed some guys, had some suspensions and injuries. Considering what they’ve been through, they’ve done pretty good.

“I have a lot of respect for John Flowers,” Brey continued, turning to the WVU personnel and its senior leader and shot blocker. “I respect Kevin Jones, and there’s not a tougher guy in the league than Joe Mazzulla. Truck Bryant, he beat us in the Garden. Then there’s Casey Mitchell, he’s been suspended some, but he got 23 the other night and he can get 30 at the drop of a hat. They also isolate the big guy (Deniz Kilicli) and he makes tough shots.”

The fact that WVU is missing shots worries Brey, in a strange way.

“Usually, when a team is not shooting well they know they better run and get the misses,” he said.

He has a tape where Flowers misses a jumper from the corner and four Mountaineers are battling under the basket for the rebound.

“My theme is going to be that’s what this game will come down to,” Brey said, meaning a physical battle.

And while the Irish seem to have their NCAA bid clinched, they have some important unfulfilled goals.

“We’re trying to win the regular-season championship,” Brey said.

As for WVU, it is just trying to get through the regular season and hopes to make a postseason run.

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

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • smallwood-wendell(1)-2.jpg Charges against Smallwood dropped

     West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood took to Twitter mid-afternoon Tuesday to express his feelings after charges of witness intimidation against him were dropped by the state of Delaware.
    It took him only three words to say what was on his mind: “God is Good.” Smallwood is now free to return to West Virginia and rejoin his Mountaineer teammates when they open camp for the 2014 season Thursday.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Charges against Smallwood dropped

    West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood took to Twitter mid-afternoon Tuesday to express his feelings after charges of witness intimidation against him were dropped by the state of Delaware.

    July 29, 2014

  • Were Bowlsby’s fears about college athletics’ future justified?

    I have never met or even talked to Bob Bowlsby, commissioner of the Big 12 Conference.
    But I did read a lengthy story on his 45-minute address to reporters last week on Media Day in Dallas, Texas. Among other things, Bowlsby forecast a startling change threatening the existence of intercollegiate athletics as we have known for these many, many years.

    July 28, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides plenty of optimism

    This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.
    This is a time of year when no one has lost a game, not even Charlie Weis at Kansas, and it’s a time of year when opinions are more plentiful than tattoos in an NFL locker room.

    July 27, 2014

  • Seider's brother commits to WVU

    West Virginia University’s football team has received a commitment from one of its own.

    July 26, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides much optimism heading into 2014 season

    This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.

    July 26, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU needs White to follow in former receivers’ footsteps

    A year ago Clint Trickett took a lot of grief as the once potent West Virginia offense came unraveled, but there is more that than meets the eye.
    The criticism was not unfounded, of course, although behind each incomplete pass there was the pain Trickett was suffering through to throw it, his rotator cuff in need of surgery.

    July 26, 2014

  • Forsey posts Top 10 finish at World Championships

    Freshman Jillian Forsey of the West Virginia University cross country team finished ninth at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
    Forsey, a native of Stephenville, Newfoundland and Labrador, was representing Team Canada. She was the first Canadian to cross the finish line in the women’s 5,000-meter run, finishing in ninth place overall in 16:02.55.

    July 26, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Wyant talks about ‘Pappy’ Lewis and other items of interest

    I saved some other interesting observations from the recent interview with Fred Wyant which you may find worth reading.
    He believes a college football coach ought to recruit a quarterback he wants, give him some help, then turn virtually everything over to him and let him go.

    July 26, 2014

  • Forsey posts Top 10 finish at World Championships

    Freshman Jillian Forsey of the West Virginia University cross country team finished ninth at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon.

    July 25, 2014

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