West Virginia came out screaming, shoving, dunking and rebounding their way to a double digit second half lead in the first game of their final Big East Tournament. In the end, they went out with nary a whimper, missing their final 13 shots from the field and losing to Connecticut 71-67 in, what turned out to also be, their last game of their final Big East Tournament. Here’s how we saw it……
Keaton Miles – Miles saw limited time and didn’t start in the second half. During his nine minutes, he hoisted up four shots (all misses) and picked up two silly fouls. He did crash the boards hard, grabbing two offensive rebounds.
Aaron Brown – Rough game for Brown, who was timid with the ball, missed all four shot attempts, and picked up two bad fouls. Heading into the half, he missed a wide open layup that had fans groaning, and he started the second half off with a turnover that resulted in a dunk for Connecticut.
Deniz Kilicli – Kilicli saved his worst game of the season for the Big East Tournament. He picked up two quick fouls, the second because he was lazy on help defense and sat the last eight minutes of the first half. In the second half, he picked up another quick one and his fourth by running over a three point shooter on his follow through, giving UConn a four-point play. He finished the day with six points, four rebounds and five fouls in 19 minutes.
Dominique Rutledge – Given the opportunity thanks to Kilicli’s poor decision, Rutledge had a very promising game. He was active on the glass, pulling in a game high 11 rebounds in 27 minutes, and on offense, he was shifty with his moves and got to the basket for six points and three assists. One particular drive from the wing saw him dunk over two defenders, surely a highlight reel play. While he was active on defense, he also picked up petty fouls and was limited on what he could do towards the end of the game because of it.
Gary Browne – Browne played 30 minutes and was a steady hand for the most part. He did nothing too spectacular, but nothing alarmingly bad, either. He had a big steal towards the end of the game, but also a huge turnover on the play before that. In the end, he tallied four points, four rebounds and three assists.
Jabarie Hinds – Hinds continued his end of the season struggled by going 3-of-8 from the floor, picking up four fouls and making a pair of horrendous decisions late in the game when West Virginia had a chance to win it.
With 29 seconds left in regulation – and 21 seconds still on the shot clock – Hinds went out of control towards the basket and threw up a weak attempt at a shot against two taller players, despite his inability to score all game. The shot was blocked and UConn was given an opportunity to set up a play to win it. Although the game went to overtime, Hinds missteps didn’t stop there. In extra time, he missed another misguided drive and committed two bad fouls. He finished with six points, two rebounds and one assist.
Darryl Bryant – Today’s game was a microcosm of Darryl “Truck” Bryant’s entire career. On defense, the effort was there, but fundamentals and decision making were not, as whoever he was guarding at the time (whether it was Shabazz Napier or Jeremy Lamb) scored at will.
On offense, he went 4-of-14 from the floor, 2-of-8 from beyond the arc and made decisions no one should make much less someone who is starting their 134th game. With 4:20 left in regulation and West Virginia up 61-52, Truck made a choice to shoot a contested three from NBA range with 33 seconds left on the shot clock. The ball clanged off the rim, Kilicli was whistled for his fifth (and final) foul and Connecticut made two free throws that began a 19-6 run that spanned the rest of the game and led the Huskies to victory. He was careful not to say it directly, but assistant coach Larry Harrison pointed to that exact play on more than one occasion during his postgame interview.
Kevin Jones – After being snubbed for Big East Player of the Year, Kevin Jones came out on a tear on Wednesday afternoon. Just before Truck’s aforementioned blunder, Jones knocked in a pair of free throws to put him at 25 points for the game. Over the final 11:17 (that includes overtime), Jones did not score a single point. The majority of that blame rests with the guards who inexplicably refused to give him the ball down low, but he also resorted to floating around the perimeter, much like he did in the first few minutes of the game. Of his 11 misses on the day, seven came from beyond the arc. While it was in a loss, his 25 points, 10 rebound performance is very fitting of Jones’ career.
Overview – Aside from their gutsy performance on the glass and going after loose balls, this was just an ugly game for West Virginia all the way around. Everyone in the building knew that Jeremy Lamb was dangerous on offense – heck, I even suggested running a box-and-one against him – but the Mountaineers played off him and Lamb torched them for 12 points in the first 12 minutes. He was the lone reason Connecticut was in the game in the first half. In the second half, as Shabazz Napier took over the game, again, Mountaineer defenders watched in awe as he scored at will.
Sprinkle in your typical elements of West Virginia games this season – poor guard play and foul trouble down low – and you get a result very similar to what Mountaineer fans have seen all season: a demoralizing, frustrating and self-inflicted close loss to a team they likely should have beaten. If you are counting, that’s an ulcer-inducing nine games this season where WVU either had the lead or an opportunity to take the lead in the final minute, but took the loss instead.
In all honesty, fans better hope that the committee has taken notice of that statistic. Numbers such as RPI, strength of schedule and others can only show so much. While it’s not the most comforting news, that competitiveness is something that should be taken into consideration and result in an at-large bid for the Mountaineers.