West Virginia Vs. Rutgers: Mountaineers Win Defensive Struggle With Scarlet Knights, 65-54

West Virginia bounces back from Thursday's loss with a win at Rutgers.

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West Virginia Vs. Rutgers: Mountaineers Outlast Scarlet Knights, 65-54

  • Cam Thoroughman gets the Mountaineers first four points of the half, first on a deep shot, then on a deep miss, which he followed for a layup.  Gotta get offense from anywhere.
  • Deniz Kilicli has been awoken, slamming home a pair of emphatic dunks.  Most importantly it meant that the Mountaineer offense is starting to create inside looks.  Kevin Jones has also gotten in on the action.
  • Casey Mitchell comes in the game and Rutgers scores seven straight points.  Coincidence?  Probably, but it can't be ignored that this team doesn't have the same rhythm when he's on the court. Rutgers now with the lead.  Veins in Huggins neck starting to bulge.
  • Mitchell finally scores.  Rutgers leads by one with ten minutes left in the game.  This is when things get interesting. I should clarify: terrifying. An old school three point play from John Flowers calms my nerves.  On an in-bounds play, no less, which is not the Eers strong suit.
  • Huggins changed out of his suit at halftime, if the 'Eers continue to play well, we can only assume this is the reason.
  • Casey goes 2-5 from three in a two possession stretch.  Luckily, Flowers is a beast on the boards and WVU controls the game right now.  The lead is extended to eight, with under seven to play.
  • ...and in one segment of play, it all comes apart.  Defensive lapses combine with turnovers on the offensive end, and Rutgers cuts the margin to three at the under-four television timeout.  Huggins has Truck back in the game and Casey on the bench.  We'll see if that's the right move down the stretch.
  • As has been their MO, the Mountaineers have let Rutgers score more points in the second half than in the first.
  • Huggins goes with the 1-3-1 for the first time all game.  He gets a miss and a board out of it.  We'll see if it continues.  It does after a made jumper from Flowers.  It gives the Scarlet Knights wide open three point opportunities, but they can't pick them up.  If one of those two shots drops, it's a different ballgame. Mazzulla hits one of two from the line to make it a six point lead, with one minute left.
  • Thoroughman picks up a big charge after being called a "global force for good" by the announcers.  I would have to agree with them.
  • Free throws down the stretch ice this for the 'Eers, mainly because Rutgers barely manages to score 50 points.  Bob Huggins going with the 1-3-1 late in the game is the play of the game for the Mountianeers.  That provided the foundation for the run that won the game, because from that point on, Rutgers never scored.  John Flowers and Kevin Jones each finished with a double double.
  • This win should mean West Virginia's a NCAA tournament lock. Now it's time for the Mountaineers to come back and pick up a win or two at home before the Big East tournament.

West Virginia Vs. Rutgers: Despite Poor Shooting, Mountaineers Lead 25-22 At Half

  • Brutal opening stretch to this game, missing shots and turning the ball over.  Luckily, thing settled down as Truck Bryant hits a pair of threes.  This, of course, gives him the impulse to make a couple of awful mistakes on his next two trips and gets pulled.  Mitchell sees his first action seven minutes into the game.
  • Midway through the first half, it's ugly.  Rutgers has a 15-11 advantage, and it looks as much like a wrestling match as a basketball game.  If wrestling matches had a whole lot of missed shots and turnovers.
  • Jonnie West gets some minutes and misses a rebound Joe Mazzulla would've definitely gotten.  I know there are some out there in the "get West more minutes" camp.  I'm not among them. The things he can't do outweigh the things he can.  He also missed his first two threes.
  • Huggins is rolling with a very strange small ball lineup right now.  Truck Bryant, Jonnie West, Dalton Pepper, Cam Thoroughman, and Kevin Jones.  I like mixing it up, but if West isn't hitting the outside shot they're trying so hard to set up, this lineup's not going anywhere.
  • John Flowers gets a transition dunk to score the first Mountaineer point in what feels like forever.  Luckily Rutgers isn't scoring either.  Truck Bryant follows it up with a transition layup and we're tied at the pathetic total of 17.  If playing quick will benefit the 'Eers, by all means do it.
  • Bryant hits his third three of the half, and it's 20-19 'Eers.  Most importantly, it means at least one of these teams will go into the half with 20 points, something that didn't seem possible earlier.  Nobody's getting 30 though.  This has been a sloppy shooting affair, with both teams hovering around 30%.
  • At the half, it's 25-22. The last possession featured, as most of them did, a missed shot.  Truck forced one a little too early, but the 'Eers go in up three at the half.  It's been an ugly game, and this first team to string together three or four made baskets in a row will run away with this one.

West Virginia Vs. Rutgers: Road Trip Continues For Inconsistent 'Eers

The West Virginia Mountaineers are on the road this afternoon for a game at the RAC, home of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.  The Mountaineers are coming of a disheartening performance last Thursday night against Pitt, which saw the Mountaineers struggle to score for the entire second half.  This is the last true road game of the season for West Virginia, and by this point we know what kind of team they are: an incredibly inconsistant team which stuggles to run offense and score points.  West Virginia's scrappy defense and general toughness keep them in game, but when it comes to lighting up the scoreboard, the Mountaineers have plenty of problems.  Today's game will be all about:

  • Who wants it more? West Virginia is a team that is easily distracted and their plans seem to get easily dislodged by early foul trouble.  Rutgers, led by senior forward Jonathan Mitchell, may be playing for pride by this point in the season but that doesn't make this one an easy out.  If WVU can't exert its will against the Scarlet Knights early, then this game gets tougher and tougher as the day wears on.  If West Virginia can get off to a good start, especially as it returns from halftime, it will go a long way towards making it an easy afternoon.  If it devolves into a tightly contested slug-fest, the Mountaineers could blow things at the end. 
  • What's in it with a win? While this game could be a trap loss for the 'Eers, a win goes a long way towards making people breathe easier as the team heads into the postseason.  A victory in Jersey means the Mountaineers will finish at least .500 in conference play.  It's a soft bubble without a lot of good teams this season, so as ugly as the Mountaineers have been, they're a lock for the Big Dance.  A decisive victory could build momentum going into the year's final two home games next week.
  • The Blue and Gold roller-coaster.  We know how it goes.  One or two guys will have good games, one or two will disappear and there's really no way to know which player will be which.  The true indicator of this team's success is the play of it's three guards, Darryl Bryant, Joe Mazzulla and Casey Mitchell.  Mitchell had a decent game at Pittsburgh, shooting really well for the first time in awhile.  In the meantime, Bryant's shooting slump returned and Mazzulla was only effective early in the game.  Tell me how those three play, and I'll tell you how the game goes.  If two of three can play well, Mitchell with his shooting and Bryant and Mazzulla getting into the lane, things will run smoothly.  If Bryant continues to jack up everything with little success, the team may struggle. If WVU is to have any success down the stretch, Joe Mazzulla will have to start playing like the guy who put the team on his back to beat Duke in '08 and Kentucky in '10.

I'm laying around watching it on the couch with the rest of you, so stay tuned to SBNation Pittsburgh for in-game updates.

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