Undermanned WVU Falls Short Again

MORGANTOWN, WV—Coach Rick Pitino and his Red Storm used 11 different players and a constant full court pressure to wear down the undermanned West Virginia Mountaineers 79-73. WVU hung tough to the very end battling right up to the final play Friday night. The game resembled the losses to SMU and Monmouth when the Mountaineers just ran out of gas. The game was a Big 12-Big East battle at the WVU Coliseum.

West Virginia’s Jesse Edwards only played 22 minutes and was in foul trouble yet he still scored 15 points and six rebounds. “The key to beating them was keeping them off the glass and when Jesse was not out there, we were really struggling to clean up anything ,” West Virginia coach Josh Eilert said. “They had 18 offensive rebounds and 26 second-chance points, I don’t know who you are going to play and beat.”

WVU led 22-15 with 13:08 left in the first half before hitting one of its cold spells. In the second half the Mountaineers went 4 minutes without a field goal while the Red Storm managed a five point lead. St. John’s took a 58-51 lead with 7:41 left. At 6:57 the Red Storm led 61-53. It was the largest of the game.

The Mountaineers fought back to make it a two point game at 2:01 remaining on Quinn Slazinski’s jumper. “Credit to them, they made some key plays down the stretch, but they also had some help,” Eilert said “At the end of the day, we’ve got to make free throws down the stretch,” Eilert added. “It’s all great to get to the line and get your legs under you and set, but you’ve got to step up there and make some free throws.”

The bulk of West Virginia’s minutes came from only seven players. ” I thought for the pace , we managed it as well as we possibly could, ” Eilert said. “We handled their pressure as well as we could, considering the numbers we’re working with.”

The Mountaineers will remain home in the “Backyard Brawl” against Pitt next Wednesday at 9 p.m. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN2. Hopefully the undermanned Mountaineers will be able to beat rival Pitt.