It's getting to be an old, familiar story for the Mountaineers, who fell behind early then roared back to beat No. 25 Ohio state on Jan. 23.
"It was a tale of two halves," guard Joe Mazzulla said.
This time the deficit grew to 14 points before WVU turned to its defense to
dig out of the hole.
The Mountaineers are flirting with disaster.
"It was nice that we could come back," senior forward Da'Sean Butler said.
"But we shouldn't have to do that in the second half all the time. I don't even
know where our heads were at the beginning of the game. We just sat there and
took it. We let them drive on us and shoot open shots."
As they get into the heart and the heat of the Big East season, rallies are
not going to come so easily.
F Kevin Jones had been shooting over 60 percent from the field until a
recent shooting slump. He made 3 of 12 against Ohio State, 5 of 14 against
Marshall and 3 of 10 against Syracuse, which figures out to 32.7 percent
shooting. Jones continues to rebound, especially on the offensive end. He has
more offensive rebounds than defensive.
After struggling some earlier in the season, G Truck Bryant has found his
shooting eye and scored in double figures in six straight games, including a
season-high 18 against Marshall. That came after he went through four games
without reaching double figures.
ON THE SPOT: F Devin Ebanks continues to struggle offensively. When he scored
only 7 points against Ohio State it marked three consecutive games without
scoring in double figures and four of his last five. In fact, over his last
seven games he has averaged less than 8 points a game. His defense, however, has
not suffered as he shut down Ohio State star Evan Turner in the second half of
that victory, holding him without a field goal.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "(Ohio State is) a Top 50 RPI team. I think we've only beaten
two of them before this, so it helps our resume. I think it helps prove we're
able to play with the best of the best. That's a great Top 50 win for us. And
we've got a lot more coming up, so we have to take advantage of those as well.'" -- WVU G Joe Mazzulla.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: After going through a spell in which they lost three of six
games -- two of them to Top 10 teams Purdue and Syracuse and one at Notre Dame,
where few outsiders win -- the Mountaineers seem to have things back together.
Their victory over Ohio State on Jan. 23 was built on an impressive defensive
performance in the second half, and if this WVU team is going to win it will be
with defense. WVU now owns two victories this year over ranked teams -- the No.
25 Buckeyes and the then No. 9 Ole Miss Rebels.
Notre Dame 70, West Virginia 68
West Virginia 68, Marshall 62
West Virginia 71, Ohio State 65
at DePaul, Tuesday, Jan. 26
vs. Louisville, Saturday, Jan. 30
vs. Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Feb. 3
at St. John's, Saturday, Feb. 6
vs. Villanova, Monday, Feb. 8
IN FOCUS: WVU begins to gear up for the month of February, which will start
with a bang as the Mountaineers play at home against two of the nation's top
teams in Pitt and Villanova. The Pitt rivalry game is always a slamming affair,
and the matchup with Villanova pits the preseason Nos. 1 and 2 Big East teams.
Former great Hot Rod Hundley had his No. 33 jersey retired, only the second
in school history along with Jerry West, and the long-time Utah Jazz broadcaster
donated a basketball scholarship to the school.
G Joe Mazzulla's shoulder, which required surgery last year and kept him
out for all but the first six games last season, has healed sufficiently that he
is now a full-time part of the rotation. He had not been able to shoot with his
left hand earlier this year but now is shooting layups and free throws with the
Freshman Deniz Kilicli of Turkey, a powerful big man, becomes eligible on
Feb. 3 for the Mountaineers and will be available for the Pitt game. He has been
sitting out a 20-game suspension for playing on a team where a player was paid.
Kilicli is expected to help inside immediately, giving the Mountaineers more
rebounding and defensive strength while being a capable scorer.