The Times West Virginian

February 24, 2012

WVU faces must-win against Marquette

By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — If ever West Virginia needs some Coliseum magic, now is the time.

Marquette, the nation’s No. 10 team, comes to town riding a hot streak that includes 11 victories in the past 12 games, while Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers are facing the reality that they may not make the NCAA Tournament.

With the embarrassing 71-44 defeat by Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., WVU fell to 17-11 with losses in six of its last eight games. The Mountaineers are a sub-.500 team in the Big East at 7-8 and have only three games left in the regular season.

To finish at .500 in the league, they must win two of the three — Marquette and DePaul remaining in the Coliseum where the Mountaineers are 10-4 and tough South Florida the season finale on the road.

It’s bad enough that WVU has to come off that Notre Dame loss and face a team as talented as Marquette, but the Mountaineers have only one day to prepare and that is the day after they had to return from South Bend.

“Obviously,” Huggins said, “we’d like to have more than one day to prepare.”

It isn’t certain Huggins could get this team ready for Marquette with a week to prepare.

The Golden Eagles are tied with Notre Dame for second place in the Big East and are the conference’s highest scoring team.

“They are constantly in attack mode,” Huggins said. “You score a basket and want to look up in the stands at your mother and wave and they are running by you. They are extremely aggressive.”

They are also extremely athletic, which translates into trouble for a WVU team Huggins called “probably the most non-athletic team in the league.”

In terms of speed, jumping and pure athleticism, he is probably right. That means they must make up for it in other ways but, of late they haven’t done that. They haven’t played harder or smarter than their opponents … and goodness knows they haven’t made their shots.

Against Notre Dame they shot 31.5 percent. Somehow they scored 16 points in the first half of their first game with Notre Dame and 16 points in the second half of the second game.

“You are not going to beat anyone scoring 16 points in a half,” Huggins said.

At present only Kevin Jones is playing decently for WVU, and to be honest he has so much on him that he isn’t at his best. Still he remains the Big East leader in scoring and rebounding.

But around him things have come unglued. Fellow senior Truck Bryant has lost his shot, getting him benched in one game.

Reserves Keaton Miles and Aaron Brown failed to get into the Notre Dame game because they hadn’t defended well enough and hadn’t shown what Huggins was looking for in practice.

Deniz Kilicli had been playing big-time ball until the Notre Dame game, when he struggled as he dealt with a cold. And the inconsistent freshmen guards Jabarie Hinds and Gary Browne have been up and down.

Hardly the way you want to go into a game against Marquette’s Jae Crowder, who is seventh in the conference in scoring at 17.1 points a game while scoring 23, 29 and 27 the last three games, and Darius Johnson-Odom, who is second in the conference to Jones in scoring at 18.7 points a game.

Email Bob Hertzel at Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.