Wednesday night’s home game with South Florida (10-8, 1-3) couldn’t be more timely for the slipping West Virginia University men’s basketball team.

Back-to-back losses at Notre Dame and Marquette almost certainly will drop the young 21st-ranked Mountaineers out of Top 25 in both major polls.

Saturday’s 81-63 drubbing at Marquette — the season’s worst defeat — underscored what they had been told to expect: It’s tough to win on the road in the Big East!

West Virginia is 9-0 inside the Coliseum, including conference victories over Connecticut, Villanova and St. John’s.

“I think some reality set in (Saturday),” Coach John Beilein told reporters. “First off, Marquette is a very good basketball team.”

He thought the Golden Eagles (15-4, 2-2) performed like a team that has four of five starters back from an NCAA tournament team.

“And our reality is the same thing,” the veteran coach said. “We lost four of five starters from an NCAA tournament team.”

What’s more, he anticipates even more tough times in conference competition — possibly at home as well as on the road.

The Mountaineers, now 13-3 overall and 3-2 in the Big East, simply did not play well against Marquette. They shot only 38.8 percent, were outrebounded 40-26 and committed 17 turnovers.

For the two road losses, WVU made only 42 of 110 shots (38.1 percent) while ND and MU combined for 52 of 98 for 53.1 percent.

In winning 13 of their first 14 contests, the Mountaineers made 46.6 percent of their shots from the field while allowing opponents just 38.7 percent. They also averaged just 11 turnovers per game.

Before going to Marquette, WVU hadn’t suffered a double-digit loss since Nov. 22, 2005 when it bowed by 80-66 to Kentucky in the Guardian Classic Final Four at Kansas City.

You have to go back to Jan. 5 for a worst Big East road loss. That was at Villanova by 84-46.

Junior guard Darris Nichols observed that the team didn’t play well in the first half of either defeat, though it had made a comeback against Notre Dame.

He suggested that the Mountaineers must figure out why correct the situation.

Frank Young, 6-5 senior and WVU’s leading scorer, thought some of the players lost their poise at times in both league road games.

South Florida’s Bulls snapped a three-game losing streak Sunday afternoon with a 74-59 victory over Cincinnati at home. Prior to that, they had won just two of their last nine games.

The USF-WVU series is tied at 1-1. The Mountaineers struggled to a 57-53 win in last season’s Big East opener for both schools at Tampa.

That triggered a 15-game league losing streak for the Bulls, who capped a disappointing 7-22 year with a 63-56 win over Georgetown.

After playing USF, WVU returns to the road on Saturday afternoon for a game at Cincinnati.

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