Louisville's Peyton Siva (left) and West Virginia's Truck Bryant fight for a loose ball.
MORGANTOWN -- After West Virginia lost for the fifth time in six games Saturday afternoon, Kevin Jones and Bob Huggins discussed the same malady that afflicts the Mountaineers in two far different ways.Jones looked at how close West Virginia is to making all sorts of plays that would reverse the outcome of games and called it frustrating.Huggins looks at the same thing and sees it as maddening and wonders when it will stop."I'm tired of ifs,'' Huggins said after West Virginia lost a nearly game-long lead to Louisville and lost 77-74 to the Cardinals in front of 11,254 at the Coliseum. "I'm tired of 'If we would do this right,' 'If we would do that right,' 'If we wouldn't do this.'
"We need to do it.''On Saturday, what the Mountaineers needed to do was protect a lead of as many as 13 points, handle Louisville's pressure and make some defensive stops when it mattered most.They did virtually none of those and the No. 24 Cardinals (20-5, 8-4 Big East) scored 11 straight points, erased a 71-64 deficit in the final 41/2 minutes and won their sixth straight. West Virginia (16-10, 6-7) extended its slump and is now two overtime wins away from a seven-game losing streak.While some of those losses have been just plain disasters (at St. John's in particular), most have been because of WVU's inability to make just a handful of plays.That's what infuriates Huggins after so many missed opportunities and frustrates Jones."We're a few steals, a few shots, a few plays, a few rebounds from being a really good team," said the senior forward, who had game highs of 22 points and 11 rebounds. "It's frustrating because we want to win real bad.''The Mountaineers also need to win, but it just isn't happening. Time, and especially good opportunities, are running thin. On the plus side, West Virginia has some time off now with just one game in the next 11 days, Thursday night at Pitt. But on the minus side that's a lot of time to stew.When the Mountaineers do play they still face tough tasks, including road games at Pitt and Notre Dame and a home game with Marquette as their next three assignments.What was the issue Saturday against Louisville? Well, take your pick. The Mountaineers ran out to a 13-point first-half lead with Deniz Kilicli having another monster performance with 15 first-half points. But then he committed his second personal foul, followed by a technical in reaction to it when he threw the ball up to roughly the hanging scoreboard.He had two points after that."That was stupid,'' Kilicli admitted.
"I don't let him do that in practice,'' Huggins fumed. "Why would he do it in a game?''For a while Kilicli's absence didn't matter all that much because Jones hit a couple of 3-pointers, WVU was in the double bonus early and Dominique Rutledge had a few of his best minutes of the season in Kilicli's place.But then it all went south. Rutledge's basket with 5:52 to play would nearly be the Mountaineers' last. Louisville scored 11 straight with a relentless press, including a tying 3 by Kyle Kuric and a go-ahead layup by Peyton Siva off an inbounds turnover with 2:20 to play.The Mountaineers still had a great chance to win, though, after Jones converted a three-point play with 50 seconds to go and Kuric couldn't make a 3 at the end of the shot clock at the other end. West Virginia had the ball and 10 seconds, down just 75-74.
But freshman Gary Browne, who earlier had made his first start, threw the ball straight to Kuric while trying to get the ball inside and the Cardinals held on when Truck Bryant's 24-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer was short.Huggins wasn't happy with Browne's decision to pass the ball in the middle from the top of the key.
"Get the ball to the basket,'' Huggins said. "They're not going to foul you.''There were, of course, other issues. West Virginia allowed Louisville far too many open 3-point looks and the Cards made 10-of-22. The Mountaineers also missed 10 of their 27 free throws while Louisville went 13-for-15. And Bryant, who had 32 and 0 points in his last two games, was more in the middle this time with 13, but shot 3-for-17.Oh, and Huggins was not at all pleased with how the game was called in regard to Louisville's press, which was really what changed the momentum and the course of the game."If you're allowed to play that way we should all press,'' Huggins said. "I think when you're allowed to play that way it's a great strategy.''Louisville got 17 points from Kuric, who led five double-figure scorers for the Cardinals. He, Chris Smith and Wayne Blackshear combined to make 10-of-18 3-point attempts.It was the first appearance of the season for Blackshear, a freshman who suffered a torn labrum prior to the season.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.
LOUISVILLE 77, WVU 74Louisville (20-5, 8-4) Min FG FT R A PKuric 25 5-10 3-4 1 1 17Behanan 28 1-4 2-2 6 1 4Dieng 26 1-4 0-0 6 1 2Siva 32 4-9 2-2 2 5 10C. Smith 27 4-10 2-2 1 1 13R. Smith 16 6-12 4-4 4 2 16Price 6 0-0 0-1 1 0 0Swopshire 20 1-3 0-0 3 1 2Blackshear 20 5-9 0-0 4 0 13Team 4Totals 200 27-61 13-15 32 12 77WVU (16-10, 6-7) Min FG FT R A PJones 40 7-13 5-7 11 4 22Kilicli 22 7-8 3-5 5 0 17Hinds 38 3-8 0-0 2 6 7Browne 29 1-3 2-2 5 2 4Bryant 40 3-17 5-7 7 1 13Rutledge 19 2-4 2-4 5 0 6Brown 6 1-2 0-0 0 0 3Williamson 0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0Miles 6 1-1 0-2 1 0 2Team 3Totals 200 25-56 17-27 39 13 74Halftime: West Virginia 44-37. 3-point goals: Louisville 10-22 (Kuric 4-8, C. Smith 3-5, Blackshear 3-5, R. Smith 0-2, Siva 0-1, Swopshire 0-1), WVU 7-22 (Jones 3-5, Bryant 2-10, Hinds 1-4, Brown 1-2, Browne 0-1). Fouled out: Kilicli. Technical fouls: Kilicli. Attendance: 11,254.