Despite loss, West Virginia doesn’t lose confidence
Published: Thursday, March 10, 2011
Updated: Thursday, March 10, 2011 01:03
West Virginia's magic in March ended Wednesday night.
The Mountaineers lost 67-61 to Marquette in the second round of the Big East Conference Tournament and were unable to defend their Big East title.
"My bag was full. I thought I was going to be here until Saturday night," said WVU forward John Flowers. "Things just didn't go as expected."
After winning its last 11 games in the month of March dating back to last year's regular season, the Mountaineers (20-11) gave up a nine-point lead early in the second half to the Golden Eagles (20-13), which eventually led to the upset. That ended any chance of them repeating as Big East Tournament champions.
"This sucks, that's for sure," said senior forward Cam Thoroughman. "We came up here and wanted to stay a few days. Now, we're leaving in the morning."
For the first time under WVU head coach Bob Huggins, the Mountaineers failed to advance to the semifinals of the Big East Tournament. It's also the first time WVU has lost in its first game under Huggins.
It's the third straight year that the Big East Tournament winner from the previous year lost its first-round game. The Mountaineers were champions last year.
"This is the first time in my career we've been one-and-done," said point guard Truck Bryant. "We just need to get back on track."
Now, West Virginia will wait until Sunday to find out where it will be headed in the NCAA Tournament. It is expected that the Mountaineers will fall no lower than a six-seed at this point.
"It's all about determination and will, and it seemed like they were more hungry," Flowers said. "They simply wanted it more … that definitely surprises me."
After winning four of its last five games to end the regular season, WVU's confidence was as high as it had been all season heading into the Big East Tournament. Three of those wins came against top 25 opponents – Notre Dame, Connecticut and Louisville. But, West Virginia was unable to corral that into Wednesday's second half in which it shot just 22.2 percent after a blistering 58.3 percent in the first half.
Despite all of that, the Mountaineers still feel they can make a run in the NCAA Tournament.
"This doesn't change anything," Thoroughman said. "Now, we know we have to come out and practice hard every day, and we can't take plays off during the game.
"I'm still very confident in our team."
WVU didn't lose in March last year, making this situation different for a bulk of the players.
The last time the Mountaineers lost in the Big East Tournament, they turned around and were upset in the first round of the NCAA
Tournament in 2009 to Dayton.
West Virginia, which has six seniors and four who were on that team, doesn't want the same result as that
"We need to make sure that we're ready to go, and we put this behind us," Thoroughman said. "We have to come out with more energy."
Thoroughman said that he saw a lack of intensity in practices following the Mountaineers' 72-70 victory over Louisville to end the regular season.
"I'm not blaming anyone, but I think that would've helped," he said. "We just need to have better ones."
Forward Kevin Jones said the team must come with more intensity in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. It must also get more stops on defense, execute better and play more cohesively as a team.
"We've just got to regroup," he said. "This isn't a break that we want, but we have to figure something out, because this can't continue. We want to go out the right way, and the way that we're headed, it's not going to happen."
The team will have more than a week to regroup before it plays in the NCAA Tournament.
"By the time we play our next game, this will definitely be out of our system," Thoroughman said. "We'll have time to rest, and we'll have a lot of days to prepare."