PoG: WVU - Marquette

Few West Virginia players had performances worthy of praise in a 67-61 loss to Marquette in second round Big East Conference tournament on Wednesday night.

PLAYER OF THE GAME:

  • Kevin Jones.

    In this space, we've often joked about the forward's ability to register double-doubles with such regularity they have become boring.

    So when he still earns our top honors after a relatively (for him) pedestrian 15-point, five-rebound effort, you know things really didn't go well for WVU.

    Unlike his standout performance against Louisville, Jones had things going from beyond the arc (3-of-4 from 3-point range) and struggled a bit closer to the basket (2-of-5).

    Jones' outside shots were a big reason West Virginia managed to take a 36-29 halftime lead. But he didn't score a field goal at all in the second half and only made two free throws.

    Without his production, WVU's offense was almost non-existent. With him producing, it had a chance against a Marquette team that wound up with its second win over the Mountaineers this year.

    For that reason alone, Jones earned our top honors -- almost by default.

    NET BURNERS:

  • Missing John Flowers.

    By game's end, the senior forward had a decent statistical line. He had scored 11 points (the second-best total on the team behind Jones' 15) and grabbed four rebounds to go with two steals and an emphatic block.

    But if any number summed up Flowers' night, it was 21. That was how many minutes he played. And it just wasn't enough for West Virginia to win.

    By the first media timeout of the first half, Flowers had picked up his second personal foul. He would be relegated to the bench until halftime.

    Surprisingly, a Mountaineer team that had struggled through stretches of the time Flowers was on the bench put together a 14-1 run to close the half with a 36-29 lead.

    Flowers came back to start the second half. He promptly made a short jumper to make it a nine-point lead and added an emphatic block, seemingly showing what was to come in the final minutes.

    But whenever Flowers needed a rest down the stretch, his team struggled defensively. Add his surprisingly efficient 4-of-6 shooting performance, and WVU fans must be wondering what might have been if he had been available for more time.

  • Poor passing in the half-court offense (and the lack of interior production that resulted).

    For much of the season, guard play hasn't been West Virginia's strength. So it was little surprise that that was again the case on Wednesday night.

    But this was bad enough to prove impossible to overcome. The Mountaineers did assist on 15 of their 20 field goals. But they countered that by turning the ball over 13 times.

    Joe Mazzulla, the team's senior leader and its source of stability during its stellar run to end the regular season, was the perfect example of that feast-or-famine phenomenon. He assisted on five baskets. But then he turned the ball over six times.

    The lost possessions were bad enough. But the fact that West Virginia's giveaways often led to easy baskets for Marquette (more on that in a bit) was truly what turned the game around.

    When WVU wasn't gift-wrapping baskets for its opposition, it was ensuring it couldn't produce in its own right. Again, the Mountaineers had troublesome field goal droughts -- this time, going 9:24 without a field goal in a decisive second half stretch, part of a run of 16:54 without a 2-pointer.

    Sure, blame that on West Virginia's 6-of-27 shooting performance in the second half, an abysmal 22.2 percent.

    But blame the lack of quality passes for some of the poor shot attempts that resulted.

  • Transition defense (or the lack thereof).

    At times, it looked like the game was played at two different speeds. Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, they were the one more typically playing slowly.

    Though official box scores often aren't the best at tracking somewhat "subjective" statistics, the final tally showed Marquette had outscored WVU on the fast-break 11-0.

    Watching the game, one might have thought the margin would have been even wider. Between Golden Eagle layups on West Virginia's aforementioned giveaways and the times MU's quick guards just beat their opposition down the floor, there was a veritable parade of powder blue jerseys to the rim.

    That was a big reason Marquette scored 30 points in the paint to the Mountaineers' 14. That is another one of those stats the official scorers sometimes struggle to get right, but in this case, both are indicative of the way the game went.

    On a day when WVU was struggling to get anything going near the basket (the team's 16:54 drought without a 2-point field goal in the second half can be Exhibit A), it was the Golden Eagles' ability to get those easy baskets that made the difference.

    Credit Marquette's guards for using their speed so effectively, but blame West Virginia's defense for failing to execute one of the fundamentals of the game -- getting back to defend quickly.

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