The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

February 6, 2011

WVU offense continues deep freeze

MORGANTOWN — When Coach Bob Huggins asked Casey Mitchell to rejoin the West Virginia University basketball team after sitting out a three-game suspension for unspecified transgressions, the veteran coach thought it was understood that he was supposed to bring his points with him to Philadelphia when facing Villanova.

Instead, the Mountaineers’ leading scorer failed to contribute anything beyond his good looks, missing three shots and was charged with a lot of turnovers in a scoreless 13-minute performance as the impotent WVU offense was thoroughly embarrassed by a vastly superior Villanova team, 66-50.

The West Virginia offense had been nothing to write home about in recent games, scoring just 234 points in winning 3 of the previous four games. That’s an average of only 58.5 points a game, which won’t win many games when you are up against nationally ranked competition like Villanova.

They didn’t come near reaching that per game average in this one, even though Mitchell was back. In fact, they played very much offensively as they have of late, and that is quite ineptly.

Before leaving for Philadelphia, Huggins made note of what has been troubling the Mountaineers.

“We don’t have guys who can dribble the ball and make plays. We have to rely on being able to screen, being able to cut, being able to pass and make shots. When we do that, we’re pretty good,” he said.

Let us just say they did none of that. In fact, other than a brief early spurt when a few shots accidentally went in, nothing was falling … except the Mountaineers in the Big East standings.

“We seemingly, when things get going too good, we gotta screw it up,” Huggins has said. “We gotta get back to being us, I guess. I don’t know.”

The numbers certainly back that up, 19 first half points being an indication of how poorly they started, finishing with 50, which is the season low.

That, Huggins knows, will not get it done.

“We have to win the way we can win. That’s the way we have to do it,” Huggins said after it was over. “You are not going to win scoring 50.”

The shame of this one was that Villanova’s defense didn’t stuff or baffle WVU. They had open looks with really good shots, the kind of shots they were looking to get.

They just couldn’t make them.

“We had more uncontested shots than they did,” Huggins said. “We had open shots from the free throw line against the zone. Kevin made the first one and we made none after that.”

There were times when the Mountaineers with Joe Mazzulla showing the way tried to get a transition game going. That would inevitably end in disaster.

“I explained to them we’re not going to run up and down and beat anyone in this league,” Huggins said.

The result was WVU had 3 fast break points.

In truth, WVU was out or sorts all day, playing without its normal pizzazz. This is a team that can — and will — get beat, but normally the other team knows it’s been a scuffle.

Not on this day.

Deniz Kilicli was a non-entity, one of his rare uninspired performances.

“Deniz was as bad as he’s been in a while,” Huggins said. “He’d been coming along.”

Kilicli played 20 minutes, had four points and five rebounds.

Then there was the strange case of Joe Mazzulla, who had provided such an offensive spark in Mitchell’s absence. His line for the day showed no points, although he did contribute five rebounds and seven assists.

Even Jones and Flowers, who were the only scorers for the Mountaineers with 16 and 15 points respectively, got their points in non-traditional fashion, almost all of it from the outside. Jones, in particular, missed a few open looks that probably wouldn’t have turned the tide in the game but would have given Jones some handsome figures.

“John didn’t fly around like he needs to fly around,” Huggins also noted.

The result was that Villanova won the battle on the boards.

The Wildcats meanwhile put together a huge second half to ice this, hitting 70 percent of their shots to finish the day hitting 54.3 percent to WVU’s 35.8.

Reserve guard Maalik Wayns was too quick for anyone on the Mountaineers and led all scorers with 17 points while Corey Fisher had 15.

There’s no rest for the Mountaineers, who returned home after the game and had to begin preparations for Monday night’s showdown with the powerful Pitt Panthers in the first of two Backyard Brawl games this season.

“We have to watch tape and figure out how to win that one,” Huggins said.

A sellout crowd is expected for the 7 p.m. tipoff at the Coliseum.

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

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