UPJ's Nick Novak goes up and under on a fast break as State defender Juan Johnson flies past.
INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- The condition of West Virginia State's basketball team is like that of its arena, Fleming Hall: under construction and, right now, a mess.On Monday night, the host Yellow Jackets did their best impression of WVU's Mountaineers by shooting 32.4 percent and getting blown out by now 9-7 Pitt-Johnstown 90-58 in West Virginia Conference play."We're still searching," said State coach Bryan Poore, whose team fell to 6-11 overall and 4-9 in league play. "We have no chemistry. We have no focus. We don't have a leader. We're searching."Before a small crowd of 219 on Martin Luther King Day, the Yellow Jackets were in the game for about two minutes. Their largest lead was one at 2-1. Six minutes later, they were down 21-4 and the rout was on.
"We got off to a great start," said Pitt-Johnstown coach Bob Rukavina. "We made shots. In the first half, their two big guys [Raymon Austin and Brandon Ross] hammered us pretty good, but we made shots and played well. It was one of those nights."Indeed, junior Mountain Cat forward Bill Luther hit 4-of-6 3-point attempts in the first half and had 13 points at the break. Senior point guard Nick Novak finished with 17 points and seven assists. Fellow guard Jordan Miller scored 17. And overall UPJ had five players finish in double figures."With UPJ, the mistakes are magnified because they don't have many guys you can lay off of," Poore said.The only highlight for State came late in the first half. After the Mountain Cats moved out to a 28-8 lead, the Yellow Jackets whittled the advantage to 35-25 on an Austin jumper at the 3:11 mark.UPJ's Paul Weatherly, though, battled hard for a rebound on the other end, secured it, scored and was fouled. The Cats went on a 10-0 run, capped when Novak was fouled with no time remaining in the half and received three free throws. At the break, UPJ led 45-25.State shot 27.8 percent in the half, while the visitors hit 47.1 percent and 53.8 from beyond the 3-point arc.If you would have projected the final count from the halftime score, you would have almost nailed it. Nothing improved for State. If anything, the Cats dissected the Jackets' press so easily late it appeared as if they toying with the hosts."We handled [the press] pretty well," Rukavina said. "We've come down here before and not handled it very well."It's a different time, though, for State and Poore. Standout Bo King has been out, although he's finally been able to shed his walking boot. Poore doesn't expect him back.In sum, it seems like a long season is ahead for a Jackets team that's lost 119-59 to West Liberty, 78-59 to Davis & Elkins, 92-56 to Charleston, 88-60 to Fairmont and 90-58 to UPJ."The goal is, at the end of February, they play a tournament," Poore said. "The focus is on the next practice. We need to try and get better for the next game [Ohio Valley at home on Thursday]. We need to keep pushing forward.
"We're searching to find what fits these guys. I feel for them. They're better players than what they showed [Monday night]."Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org
">email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.