By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
February 2, 2008
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia has backed itself into a corner when it faces Providence Saturday night at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in downtown Providence.
The Mountaineers are coming off one of their worst performances ever in a 62-39 loss to Cincinnati Wednesday night at the Coliseum. West Virginia made just 10 of 50 field goal attempts against the Bearcats for 20 percent in recording its second lowest point total ever at the WVU Coliseum. Some of that was caused by Cincinnati’s tough defense and some of it was because of bad West Virginia shooting.
When referees standing out of bounds are ducking missed shots that’s not a good thing.
“We didn’t look at any of the game film,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said, noting also that players Darris Nichols and Joe Mazzulla held a team meeting to straighten some things out.
“They were really good in practice (Thursday),” Huggins said. “If we were as good Wednesday as they were (Thursday) we wouldn’t have had any problems.”
At this time last Saturday morning West Virginia was cruising along at 15-4 and positioned near the top of the conference standings. A subsequent loss to Georgetown on a last-second shot and the hangover that carried over into the Cincinnati game has put the Mountaineers in a deepening hole.
“We’ve put ourselves in a hole. I don’t know about them but I’ve been in holes before,” said Huggins. “You just have to fight your way out.”
The Mountaineers (15-6, 4-4) are facing a Providence team seeking a win to keep its post-season hopes alive. The Friars had a chance to knock off Notre Dame in South Bend Thursday night before falling in overtime 81-74. The Friars have lost three in a row to drop to 12-8, 3-5.
“They looked really good against Notre Dame Thursday night,” Huggins said. “They really make shots. A lot of guys can make shots and they have good balance, too. They’re really good.”
Four starters are averaging double digits including 6-1 junior guard Jeff Xavier, who is averaging a team-best 12.9 points per game. Guards Dwain Williams and Brian McKenzie are both averaging 11.6 points per game.
“We’ve got to try to limit their open looks,” Huggins said. “If we give them open looks they are going to make them.”
Six-eight, 235-pound forward Geoff McDermott is Providence’s top inside player averaging 10.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
West Virginia has only won twice at Providence in nine tries and the last victory in 2005 snapped a five-game losing streak and put the Mountaineers on the road to an NCAA tournament berth and an Elite Eight appearance.
“We have 10 games left. We have a lot of games left and a lot of opportunities left,” Huggins said. “You look at it as an opportunity realizing we have put ourselves in a hole. We’ve dug out of holes before.”
Junior guard Alex Ruoff continues to lead West Virginia in scoring averaging 15 points per game. However, Ruoff has managed just 15 points in his last two games against Georgetown and Cincinnati.
Forward Joe Alexander is also looking to snap a cold spell. Since missing the South Florida game with a groin injury Alexander has 22 points in his last three games to see his scoring average dip to 14.6 points per game.
ESPN Plus is televising tonight’s game locally on WCHS (Charleston), WOAY (Beckley), WVFX (Clarksburg), WTOV (Steubenville, Ohio), WTAP (Parkersburg), WJAL (Chambersburg, Pa.), WPCW (Pittsburgh) and ONN (Ohio).
Fans outside of the tri-state area can watch the game on SportsNet New York, MASN, Cox New England, Metro Sports (Kansas City) and ESPN Full Court.
MSN’s pre-game radio coverage (Sirius 122) begins at 6:30 pm with the Mountaineers Today. Tip off is 7 pm.