Archive for February, 2012
The Big East Conference is the home of some of the toughest environments in college basketball.
One of the toughest for West Virginia to come away with a win in has been the Joyce Center – home of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Victories at the Joyce Center have been extremely rare for the Mountaineers since they started playing the Irish there. In fact, in the 12 times the two teams have played there, West Virginia has come away with just one victory.
But if there was any time when WVU needed to leave South Bend with a victory, it’s this year.
A win over Pitt last week definitely helped their cause but the Mountaineers are still in need of some wins before they can breath easy about their NCAA tournament hopes. Beating Notre Dame on the road tonight would definitely do wonders to help solidify their resume.
Speaking of March, I posed a question to West Virginia fans on Twitter, asking where they thought West Virginia should be if the tournament started right now. I got a wide variety of responses, but the most frequent opinion was that WVU deserved to be an 8 or 9 seed.
That interests me a lot.
It’s likely that, if the Mountaineers were to get that seed, they could play their first two games in Pittsburgh. If I were a No. 1 seed, I wouldn’t want to get paired up with a WVU team in Pittsburgh.
The Mountaineers are much better when their fans are out in full force … and you can almost guarantee that the fans will be out at the Consol Energy Center.
I think West Virginia could earn that seed, but there’s still work to be done. Personally, I would probably give them a No. 10 seed based on the Mountaineers’ current body of work.
Beating Notre Dame and Marquette in the next few days could make things look a lot different though, obviously.
It can be done, but it’s going to be very hard. West Virginia can’t afford to look forward to Marquette or get too caught up in the success it had against Pittsburgh. It has to keep moving forward.
So, with that said, let’s look a little closer at tonight’s game …
- Notre Dame is currently No. 20 in the Associated Press top 25. It will be the seventh time this year WVU has played a ranked team. The Mountaineers are 1-5 against ranked opponents this season.
- Of the six games against ranked teams the Mountaineers have played this year, they are 0-3 on the road.
- Senior forward Kevin Jones is averaging 21.3 points and 11 rebounds per game against ranked teams this year.
- In WVU’s last meeting against Notre Dame (a loss on Feb. 8), Jones and junior forward Deniz Kilicli combined for 30 points and 17 rebounds, while freshman Jabarie Hinds scored 17 points.
- Also in that last game, senior guard Truck Bryant was held scoreless. It was the second time in Bryant’s career that he failed to score against Notre Dame.
- The last time Bryant failed to score against the Irish, he scored 24 points and had no turnovers in 28 minutes the next time West Virginia faced Notre Dame.
- After averaging 24.5 minutes per game off the bench in the first 25 games of the season, freshman point guard Gary Browne is averaging 33.5 minutes as a starter in the Mountaineers’ last two games.
- Notre Dame is 14-1 at the Joyce Center this season. The only loss was to UConn on Jan. 14.
- West Virginia is outrebounding Notre Dame this season (38.1 vs. 34.6 rebounds per game). The Mountaineers haven’t been outrebounded by a team since Dec. 28 when Villanova won the battle of the boards 40-33.
And, before I let you just get to watching the game, here are some pregame links to look at:
- First, from today’s DA, the women’s basketball team couldn’t comeback against No. 20 St. John’s last night.
- It looks like the plan for a new WVU baseball stadium has hit a bit of a snag. Jared Hunt of the Charleston Daily Mail reports that the bill to finance the new facility is not ready for legislature quite yet.
- For the first time in a long time West Virginia AND Marshall are looking to earn at-large bids in the NCAA tournament.
- Truck Bryant was benched against Pitt, but as long as the Mountaineers keep winning he’s fine with that.
- WVU head coach Bob Huggins is taking to his new Twitter account to help fight for a cause he believes in.
The West Virginia men’s basketball team has been struggling as of late.
Then last Thursday, on the brink of losing its NCAA tournament bid if it kept slipping, WVU ran Pittsburgh out of the gym … AT THE PETERSEN EVENTS CENTER. The Mountaineers were able to beat the Panthers for just the second time ever in the venue where the Panthers have only lost 18 games since they started playing there in 2002.
So, what was the key?
What was the difference for the Mountaineers Thursday compared to the two games they had just lost at home and the other three they lost before an overtime thriller over Providence?
This screenshot taken from ESPN3.com during the Backyard Brawl of myself (on the right) and my friend John Terry, Managing Editor at The Daily Athenaeum, covering the game was the key to the game. I’m sure of it.
But before I get into how we were the difference makers that night, here’s a story of what went on …
Heading into a media timeout, I noticed one of the camera guys lurking around the student reporters from The Pitt News. I thought they would just be on them for a while then get back to the game, so I just continued doing research and tweeting about the game until the timeout was over.
And then I received a mention from John that said the camera guy was looking at us, so I looked up and noticed he was very close to the two of us and was definitely filming.
That was when my mentions began getting flooded on Twitter.
So, anyway, while Twitter was exploding with the news of John and I being on TV, the Mountaineers were running away with the game.
At that time, WVU was starting to extend its lead a little (it was winning 40-33) but us being on the broadcast propelled the Mountaineers to a 12-3 run over the course of the next five minutes and, just like that, they had a commanding 52-36 lead. From there they went on to their 66-48 victory over Pitt in what could be the final Backyard Brawl ever, and after the game we got this shot after we found some of the signs the Oakland Zoo left laying around.
Now were we really the difference? Maybe not.
But it’s a cool story and it was an awesome thing to add to what might have been my favorite trip to ever cover as a reporter.
Maybe, just to be safe, Bob Huggins should try to get some ESPN cameras in The Daily Athenaeum newsroom tonight for the game against Notre Dame though. I’m sure they’ll get some good stuff regardless.
After what seemed to be possibly a season-changing win in overtime over Providence Sunday, West Virginia fell once again to Notre Dame, 55-51.
The Mountaineers have now lost four of their last five games, and are 6-6 in Big East Conference play with six games remaining on the schedule. Assuming they need nine or 10 conference wins in order to have a pretty good chance of getting an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament.
So, that means WVU will need to find a way to win at least three of the final six games, which includes road trips to Notre Dame and Pittsburgh (two teams it has lost to in the last two weeks) and home games against Louisville on Saturday and Marquette next Friday before wrapping things up with DePaul and South Florida (on the road).
Will it be tough for the Mountaineers to build a good enough resume for a bid? Yes.
Are they dead yet? Let’s see what junior forward Deniz Kilicli had to say after last night’s loss:
“We’re not dead yet. We lost the battle … but still, we’re not dead.”
Kilicli also had some good things to say after the game about what Bob Huggins told them in the locker room about the importance of wearing the West Virginia jersey:
”In this state, there’s nobody else other than us. There’s no pro team and people love us. Half of those guys (in the stands) are coming from southern West Virginia – that’s about three hours that they’re travelling (to get to Morgantown). Coal miners go down into the mines and come back up to watch us play. Everyone is the state works so hard to get what they deserve and when we don’t dive to the ball … it looks bad. I think it’s disrespectful to the fans and I apologize for that.
We should think about that tonight, everybody should. Some fundamental issues, you can go over it and you can change it, but when we have issues in our hearts, that’s a bad thing.”
As Bob Huggins always says, the Big East is a hard league. The Mountaineers will have to find ways to win tough games if they want to get back to the NCAA tournament, but it’s definitely still a possibility.
With that said, Saturday’s game against Louisville will be huge.
But more on that later, let’s get to some tidbits from last night’s game …
- First, for those of you on Twitter, WVU head coach Bob Huggins got Twitter today. It took him about two hours after his first tweet to get up over 2,000 followers.
- Kevin Jones had 14 points, which means his streak of 20-point games ends at nine. That’s just one short of tying Jerry West and “Hot Rod” Hundley’s record of 10.
- Jones finished with 14 and 12 rebounds, giving him his 16th double-double of the year and 28th of his career.
- After scoring 32 against Providence, Truck Bryant was held scoreless against Notre Dame. It was the sixth time in his career he failed to score a point, and the second time it has happened against the Irish.
- With that said, Truck needs 77 more points to reach 500 for the season, and that will put him and KJ in the record books …
- With 77 more points, Bryant and Jones will become the 7th duo to score more than 500 points in a single season in WVU history. It will be the fourth time it has happened in Huggins’ five years at West Virginia.
- The other groups to do so were: Fritz Williams, Carl Head and Deacon Reaser (1967); Lowes Moore and Mo Robinson (1978); Kevin Pittsnogle and Mike Gansey (2006); Joe Alexander and Alex Ruoff (2008); Alex Ruoff and Da’Sean Butler (2009); Da’Sean Butler and Kevin Jones (2010).
- After last night’s loss, WVU is 4-3 in games decided by five points or less.
- Deniz Kilicli has now played at least 25 minutes in six-straight games. He’s played at least 30 minutes eight times this season. His career-high in minutes coming into this year was 27 (last season against South Florida).
- Although he failed to score a point, Truck shot just one time in the second half and finished with a career-high eight assists.
- When West Virginia took a 41-40 lead on a Kevin Jones 3-pointer, it was the first time the Mountaineers had led since it was 12-10 (it took 23:54 to get the lead back).
Follow Daily Athenaeum Sports Editor Michael Carvelli on Twitter.