Good and Bad

At its best, West Virginia is a Top 10 team. At its worst, West Virginia is not very good.

To date, the Mountaineers have been like the nursery rhyme girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead, topping it off with a very horrid half against Notre Dame in a 70-68 defeat.

West Virginia hit its first shot against the Irish, then missed 14 of its next 15 as it fell behind 25-4. The Mountaineers recovered, but they never got the lead and wound up losing their second straight road game in Indiana -- having previously lost at Purdue -- when Da'Sean Butler's 3-point attempt bounced around but would not go in.

"It was just not paying attention to the scouting report," said Kevin Jones, the team's top scorer in the Notre Dame game with 17 points. "We weren't getting out and guarding the guys we knew were their shooters."

Defense, of course, is a Bob Huggins trademark and the record proves it. His team is 50-1 when having a higher shooting percentage than its opponent and 50-4 when scoring 70 or more points. Against Notre Dame, the Irish shot 53.5 percent.

"They shot 53 percent against us and this is the same group that gave up 39 percent a year ago in the best conference in the history of college basketball," said Huggins. "We're just not getting it done from a defensive standpoint, and then we do things from an offensive standpoint that I don't understand."


NOTES, QUOTES

  • West Virginia has lost 10 straight games at Notre Dame's Joyce Center, dating to 1996.

  • One reason for this season's loss at Notre Dame? Well, the Irish were 14 of 20 in free throws in the final 11:20, and WVU was 2 for 4 from the free throw line ... for the entire game.

  • West Virginia broke out black uniforms for its home game against Rutgers and they were an instant hit with the crowd and the players. "I wish we could play in them all the time," F Kevin Jones said.


    ON THE SPOT

    F Devin Ebanks is headed for a career in the NBA, but this has been something of a troubled year. He missed three game earlier without any reason given other than "personal reasons," and against Notre Dame he played only three minutes in the second half as coach Bob Huggins decided to play G Joe Mazzulla with G Truck Bryant in the backcourt to try to erase a huge Irish lead. Ebanks did not score in 19 minutes, going 0-for-4 from the field.


    QUOTE TO NOTE

    "We lose by 20 or we lose by two, what's the difference? At the end of the day you don't win championships and you don't hang banners by losing. That's the bottom line." -- Coach Bob Huggins, after his team overcame a 21-point deficit but lost by two at Notre Dame.


    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    SEASON RECAP West Virginia has not played as well as coach Bob Huggins would have liked, losing twice on the road, at Purdue and at Notre Dame, and going to overtime against Seton Hall and edging Marquette by a point in a five-game span. The biggest problem has been the defense, which has not been as smothering as Huggins would like ... and F Devin Ebanks has not advanced over his play from a year ago.

    PLAYER ROTATION

    Usual Starters -- PG Truck Bryant, F Devin Ebanks, C Wellington Smith, F Da'Sean Butler, F Kevin Jones. Key Subs -- PG Joe Mazzulla, G Casey Mitchell, F John Flowers, F Cam Thoroughman, G Dalton Pepper.

    GAME REVIEW

    Purdue 77, West Virginia 62
    West Virginia 86, Rutgers 52
    Notre Dame 70, West Virginia 68

    GAME PREVIEW

    at South Florida, Wednesday, Jan. 13
    vs. Syracuse, Saturday, Jan. 16
    vs. Marshall at Charleston, Wednesday, Jan. 20
    vs. Ohio State, Tuesday, Jan. 23
    at DePaul, Saturday, Jan. 26


    IN FOCUS

    West Virginia has to find a way to get back on the winning track after two terrible road performances at Purdue and Notre Dame. The best place to do that, of course, is at home, but they bite off one of those Big East toughies in their next home game, entertaining Syracuse on Saturday. The way WVU plays defense against this high-flying, high-scoring group before a sold-out home crowd will dictate the way the game will go.


    ROSTER REPORT

  • G Joe Mazzulla's injured shoulder, which underwent surgery last year, still is not 100 percent but he is getting more playing time. He played 14 minutes against Notre Dame, scoring six points on 3-for-3 shooting. He also had three rebounds, two steals and an assist.

  • F Da'Sean Butler has pretty much moved to the backcourt as F Kevin Jones has taken over in the frontcourt. Jones is leading the team in rebounding and is second in scoring while shooting better than 60 percent.
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