By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Somewhere late in a game that already was lost, Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant drove the baseline against West Virginia and went up to dunk the ball only to have it slip from his grasp as he soared above the rim.
The ball rolled toward the corner, Grant in hot pursuit of it, the West Virginia players sort of standing around waiting for it to roll out of bounds.
Grant grabbed it, turned, looked and saw he was alone, sort of shrugged his shoulders in a “why not” kind of gesture and canned a 3.
That summed up the kind of evening it was as West Virginia lost its 11th straight game at Notre Dame in most embarrassing of fashions, 71-44.
The loss was the Mountaineers’ sixth in their last eight games and dropped their Big East record to 7-8 with Marquette, the nation’s No. 10 team, coming into the Coliseum in 48 hours.
Notre Dame, on the other hand, has now won nine in a row and is playing basketball at a level that puts it in a different league than WVU, and we’re not talking about Big East and Big 12.
Consider, if you will, that Notre Dame scored 41 points in the second half while WVU was scoring 44 points in the entire game. The Mountaineers’ second-half performance was so putrid they were outscored 41-16.
Things were so bad that Paul Williamson, who had taken only two shots since Dec. 19, played 16 minutes of this game and got off three shots while one-time starter Keaton Miles and Aaron Browne, who had been a valuable reserve, never got off the bench.
“I’m tired of telling them to get off their help and they stand there and hold onto the guy they are guarding,” an exasperated Bob Huggins explained. “They wouldn’t do it in practice and I’m not going to let them do it in a game.”
Not that it mattered who he played.
About the only player who gave him anything was Kevin Jones, who had 15 points and eight rebounds. The eight rebounds moved him past 1,000 for his career as he joined Jerry West and Warren Baker as the only players in school history with 1,000 rebounds and 1,500 career points.
He did not celebrate.
Huggins was flabbergasted.
“I’ve never had a team give up 60 percent shooting in two halves. Never. And I had some pretty bad teams when I got to some places,” Huggins said.
Notre Dame shot 61.4 percent for the game. WVU shot 31.5 percent, just more than half the Irish’s percentage.
WVU hit one of 11 3-point shots. Notre Dame scored on 9 of 16, 56.3 percent.
All of that led Huggins to sum the game up quite succinctly: “They can shoot. We can’t.”
While that bothers him, he was more bothered by his team being out-toughed by the Irish, especially his center Deniz Kilicli, who was battling a cold but not Jack Cooley, the Notre Dame center.
WVU led for much of the first half and even though Notre Dame got hot toward the end of the half and went to the locker room with a 30-28 lead, there was no reason to panic.
Who knew what awaited in the second half.
Notre Dame got it going.
“You heard me say a thousand times you can’t let a team get it going. We let them get it going,” Huggins said.
All of a sudden it was raining 3s, and when the Irish weren’t bombing from far out they were beating WVU down the court on fast breaks. And when shots went up, Jack Cooley was battling underneath or simply breaking loose on pick and rolls for simple dunks.
Grant led Notre Dame with 20 points while Frank Martin, who hit 5 of 7 shots including 3 of 4 3s, had 15. Cooley and point guard Eric Atkins each had 13. Grant, Martin and either Cooley or Atkins combined to outscore WVU.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.