WVU Outlasts Pirates
By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
February 20, 2010
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Sooner or later West Virginia is going to make some shots and when that happens, the Mountaineers may finally play a basketball game that they don’t have to sweat out.
The eighth-rated Mountaineers (21-5, 10-4) made just 37.9% of their field goal attempts and didn’t convert a field goal over the remaining 9:05. Consequently, West Virginia had to hang on for a 75-63 victory over Seton Hall on Saturday at the WVU Coliseum.
“We had every opportunity to put the game away and we continue to miss free throws at inopportune times and then we continue to not run offense when it’s time to run offense,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “You can only talk to them so much about it and at this point in time of the year, it’s going to come down to guys are going to come and sit down and watch because we’re not going to continue to do this.”
West Virginia’s 12-point victory was very deceiving. The Mountaineers needed free throws from Wellington Smith with 2:37 remaining to snap a 14-0 Pirate run and once again make it a two-possession game.
Fortunately for West Virginia, it was able to get it done at the foul line, making 27 of 38 overall and 12 of 16 over the final two minutes of the game.
“You have to give them credit because they didn’t quit, but the truth of the matter is we helped them considerably,” said Huggins.
The Mountaineers had plenty of opportunities to make this a much more comfortable afternoon, using a 23-6 run over a 10-minute stretch in the first half to turn a five-point Seton Hall lead into a 12-point West Virginia advantage, 29-17, with 5:49 remaining in the first half.
WVU got it to 14 before the first half horn when three-consecutive cracks at the basket finally went down when Bryant hit a 12-footer as the clock expired.
Then early in the second half, a wide open jumper by Smith gave West Virginia its biggest lead of the game, 47-28, with 16:18 left. Then the Mountaineers went cold. Seton Hall used a 16-5 run, getting 3s from Jeremy Hazell (two), Jordan Theodore and Robert Mitchell to make it an eight-point game.
West Virginia answered with an 11-2 spurt to push its advantage back out to 17, 63-46, before the Pirates rallied again. In all, WVU was 0-for-7 shooting over the remaining 9:05, and also committed three turnovers that helped the Pirates make a game of it.
“When you come down, you don’t make a pass and you drive into three guys and you turn around and look like where’s the foul? There isn’t going to be a foul,” said Huggins. “Then they shoot a layup at the other end. How many times did we do it after we got up and then made really ill-advised plays on the offensive end that led to wide-open layups or 3s at the end?”
Devin Ebanks continued his fine play of late, scoring 16 points and grabbing six rebound (all six were offensive). Ebanks has scored double figures in five straight games and is averaging 15.8 points per game during that stretch.
“Devin has really been focused on doing the right things,” said Huggins. “He’s never been a bad practice player, but he’s been an outstanding practice player here lately. Where do you find another 6-9 guy you can put on a 5-9 guy, you can put on a 6-9 guy, you can put on a shooting guard or you can put on a small forward? He’s really done a great job.”
Kevin Jones contributed 16 points and nine boards, while Da’Sean Butler added 14.
“I don’t care who shoots, as long as it’s a shot that we can rebound I’m good with it,” said Huggins.
Twenty one of West Virginia’s 41 rebounds were on the offensive glass. Seton Hall finished the game with 36 rebounds.
The Pirates got 16 points from Jeff Robinson and 10 off the bench from Robert Mitchell. Hazell, who burned the Mountaineers for 41 points in an earlier game this year, finished with 9 on just 2 of 10 shooting. Hazell was wearing a thick bandage on his shooting hand after receiving eight stitches in Seton Hall’s nine-point victory at St. John’s earlier this week.
Herb Pope, from nearby Aliquippa, Pa., scored 9 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Seton Hall.
“I thought it was a very uninspired effort by us, very uninspired by the students and very uninspired by everybody around Morgantown today, I guess,” said Huggins.
The announced crowd of 11,816 was the lowest since the Mountaineers had 9,586 for a weeknight game against Rutgers on Jan. 6.
The Mountaineers have a quick turnaround by facing Connecticut Monday night in Hartford for an ESPN Big Monday game. The Huskies face Rutgers later this afternoon in Piscataway.
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