West Virginia: Poor offensive effort stifles Mountaineers

Fall to No. 5 Orange as team's top two scorers combine for just nine field goals

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- There are plenty of ways to dissect a basketball game after it is over, and when it ends up being decided by one point, there is plenty of second-guessing to do as well.

But the analysis of yesterday's 72-71 victory by No. 5 Syracuse against No. 10 West Virginia before a sellout crowd of 15,271 at WVU Coliseum required far less thinking than trying to break down possessions, matchups or defenses -- at least according to West Virginia coach Bob Huggins.

"We didn't make any shots," Huggins said. "Good teams make open shots, at least most of the time and we haven't been making them, not just in this game, but in the last few games. We need to start making shots.

"The bottom line is if we make a few shots, everybody is in here happy, but we didn't make any shots."

Huggins is correct that the Mountaineers (13-3, 4-2 Big East) didn't shoot the ball well for most of the game -- they were 24-for-61 (39 percent). And though they did down the stretch to make the game close, it turned out to be too little too late.

The Orange (17-1, 4-1), who led 26-25 at the half, dominated a lot of the second half, seizing control with a 24-9 run by capitalizing on the Mountaineers' inability to convert at the offensive end.

That run turned a five-point deficit into a 10-point lead for the Orange and they still led, 65-55, with 1:25 to play.

But the Mountaineers, who took 16 more shots than Syracuse, found their stroke when they made two consecutive 3-pointers and got three free throws from Darryl Bryant, after he was fouled on a 3-point attempt, to make the score 71-68 with seven seconds to play.

Syracuse's Scoop Jardine made one of two free throws at the other end to push the Orange lead to four but the Mountaineers got a 3-pointer from Bryant, who led all scorers with 18 points, with four seconds to play.

The Orange inbounded to Kris Joseph who was immediately fouled, and he missed both free throws with 3.1 seconds on the clock.

Da'Sean Butler grabbed the rebound on the second miss but his running 70-foot attempt missed the mark and Syracuse escaped with the victory.

"West Virginia is a great defensive team and a very hard team to play against," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "I thought we were tough enough to win the game and I think that was a big step for us. We were tougher today than we were in that [loss] against Pitt a few weeks ago, I think we learned something about toughness from that game. We brought our toughness today."

The poor shooting hurt West Virginia but so did the fact that the Mountaineers' top players, Butler and Devin Ebanks, combined for only 21 points on 9-for-25 shooting.

The Orange also outrebounded West Virginia, 35-29, and shot 57.8 percent from the field (26-for-45).

Huggins said if the Mountaineers are going to reach the heights they are projected to this year they are going to have to get a lot more from their two stars.

"The truth is Devin goes 4-for-12 and Da'Sean goes 5-for-13 and those are supposed to be our studs and in all honesty, a lot of those shots were at the end of the game," Huggins said. "I also thought Andy Rautins made some huge shots for [Syracuse], huge. The shot he made against Joe Mazzulla going away from the basket, we don't have anybody who could attempt that shot and hit the rim."

It was the first time that top-10 teams have met at WVU Coliseum.

Paul Zeise can be reached at pzeise@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1720.


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