Louisville Vs. West Virginia: Mountaineers Win 72-70 On Last-Second Free Throws

The Mountaineers bid adieu to John Flowers, Joe Mazzulla, Cam Thoroughman, Casey Mitchell and Jonnie West on Senior Day in Morgantown against the Louisville Cardinals.

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Louisville Vs. West Virginia: Gritty Win Sends Mountaineers Into Postseason On A Hot Streak

Wow. That was AWESOME.  It was an incredibly improbable way to win a game that WVU had actually already given away three minutes before.  In the end, this group of guys, hardened by their head coach, got a gritty senior day win that will be talked about for years to come.  There's a lot to talk about right now though, so let's get to it:

  • The endgame.  It was completely bizarre, and I would have loved to hear Pitino's post game remarks.  I'm sure they weren't chipper.  With thirty seconds left, down by three, Kevin Jones misses the potentially tieing shot from the top of the key.  I liked the call, and I even liked Jones taking the shot, he had been having a monster game which we'll talk about in length later.  It doesn't go. Quick foul, and Chris Smith ices his free throws.  The deficit is pushed back to five, and all is pretty much lost.  I figured that was it.  Then Casey Mitchell, who had been playing horribly all day, comes riding in to the rescue.  Hits one big three, and then after Peyton Siva choked on the first of two free throws, Mitchell ties it.  Six points in nine seconds of play.  The forgotten senior made his mark on senior day.  The Cards had their shot to tie it but Truck gets fouled.  It was a foul, but Preston Knowles should've been smart enough to play off that far from the bucket.  Truck, for all his faults, has ice water in his veins at the line, and he wins the game.  The final contribution from a guy who had been struggling all day (all year, really), emblematic of the whole game.  Everybody contributed.
  • KJ's Big Day.  Kevin Jones put together the kind of game we'd wanted from him all year and it couldn't have come at a better time.  Jones had a double double in the first half, and finished with an astonishing 25 points and 16 boards.  The boards were the most important, and the Mountaineers punished the Cardinals on the glass.  Jones constantly came down with the ball and immediately turned it into points all day long and was the big difference maker for the blue and gold today.  Kevin could turn into a dominant forward in the Big East after all, and that will reap benefits in postseason play.  The trick to tournament winning is controlling the basketball game, and you can't do that without a serious post presence.  If Jones can have half the day he had today in each tournament game, the 'Eers will be playing for awhile.
  • The Big Five Seniors.  Joe Mazzulla, Cam Thoroughman, Casey Mitchell, John Flowers and Jonnie West got a memorable senior day win today and they all had games that were emblematic of their careers.  Joe and Cam played the entire game in foul trouble and finished it on the bench, but that's what we've come to expect from those two.  Flowers had another double double and spent most of the game in mid-air swatting 6 shots. Casey Mitchell, he of the game tying shot, had another confusing game.  Before his crucial threes he was 1 for 6 from the floor and had his share of confounding mistakes.  When the Mountaineers need points though, he provided.  Oh yeah, Jonnie West got in and hit a couple of free throws in front of dad.
  • It's March! The Mountaineers have won eleven straight games in the month of March.  That's astounding, and it bodes well for this postseason.  The Mountaineers get a first round bye in the Garden, and will be set up to play a beatable team on Wednesday night.  After that, anything can happen. Same goes for the Big Dance.  With a decent matchup, WVU could play their way into the second weekend.  The way the Mountaineers have been playing defense and rebounding lately, they can beat anybody.  This afternoon they beat a top twenty team, while scoring more than usual, while still shooting 33%.  To do that, you've got to be able to muck up a basketball game and play a little ugly.  Whenever West Virginia can do that, they've got a shot against anybody.

Check back at SBNation Pittsburgh for more on Pitt and West Virginia during the Big East tournament.


Louisville Vs. West Virginia: Mountaineers Win In Dramatic Fashion

Aaron will be back later with a full recap, but the Mountaineers won this one thanks to a dramatic comeback, pulling off another upset of a strong Big East team. WVU trailed by five with less than 30 second left in the game, but Casey Mitchell quickly hit two huge three-pointers. Truck Bryant then hit two foul shots with less than a second remaining to give WVU a 72-70 win.

Kevin Jones had 25 points and 16 rebounds (11 of them on the offensive glass) for the Mountaineers, while John Flowers had 12 points. The Mountaineers shot only 21-for-62 from the field, but made up for that with a ton of offensive rebounds and 26-for-29 shooting from the foul line.

Kyle Kuric had 21 points for the Cardinals, while Preston Knowles had 15 and Chris Smith had 14.

With the win, West Virginia clinched a first-round bye in the Big East tournament, which begins March 8, and strengthened its potential position in the NCAA Tournament, although whether or not the Mountaineers would make it was not really in doubt.


Lousiville Vs. West Virginia: Cards Come Calling On Senior Day

It's senior day in Morgantown, as the Mountaineers lace 'em up one last time to square off against the Louisville Cardinals.  Louisville squeaked to a 55-54 win in Louisville, but the Mountaineers expect to have more success in the loud environs of the WVU Coliseum.  Here's what I'm watching from section 18:

  • The Seniors. Today the Mountaineers honor five seniors who are one of the most diverse classes in school history.  The departures are led by senior guard Joe Mazzulla, who has put the team on his back in recent weeks, a feat I expect to continue.  Mazzulla's contributions to Mountaineer lore will already have him remembered for years in Morgantown, as he was the catlyst behind Huggins two greatest victories as a Mountaineer: '08 and '10 tournament wins against Duke and Kentucky.  John Flowers is equally beloved for his hustle on the court and his quirky personality off the court.  Right now there's probably no Mountaineer who is adored like Flowers, and while the kid doesn't have "NBA" written all over him, the work ethic he's displayed tells me someone will give him a shot.  Cam Thoroughman also makes his final home appearance tonight, as the Mountaineers consummate "glue guy".  Cam doesn't do the things that get you on Sportscenter, he just does everything else.  The final two seniors, Jonnie West and Casey Mitchell aren't quite as beloved as the first three.  West is a career bench player known to knock down some threes when called on, and Mitchell has been an enigma during his two up and down years on campus.  While Mitchell's departure won't make anyone misty-eyed, I'd love to see him drop 30 on the Cards today.
  • The Card Guards.  West Virginia has trouble guarding dynamic guards, and it's even worse when there are two of them.  WVU had success against UConn's tandem of Napier and Walker, but got burned by Peyton Siva and Preston Knowles in the first meeting with Louisville.  Truck Bryant's defense has improved, so I don't expect the 'Eers to get pushed around quite as much as in their first meeting.  If WVU can control the tempo and turn the game into a half-court grind, it heavily favors the 'Eers.  If Siva and Knowles are running up and down the court all day, it will be hard to escape with a win.
  • Bye-Winning.  Simply put, if the Mountaineers pick up a win, they'll lock up a bye in the first round of the Big East tournament.  A loss would put them in the midst of a mid-conference log jam where eight teams could potentially finish at 10-8.  The Mountaineers hold tie breakers against UConn, Cincinnati, and Georgetown, so the possibility that they get the bye even with a loss still exists.  Either way, win or lose today, Bob Huggins has an undermanned Mountaineer squad on the precipice of the postseason.  This team may not go to the Final Four, but it has already over-achieved this season.  From now on, the Mountaineers are playing with house money.

I'm off to the Coliseum, I'll be back with a recap this afternoon, hopefully with good things to report.

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