Second-half struggles give Mountaineers third loss in last three games
Published: Monday, February 14, 2011
Updated: Monday, February 14, 2011 23:02
The Carrier Dome wasn't so friendly to the West Virginia men's basketball team this year.
The Mountaineers, which advanced to the Final Four on that same court during last year's NCAA Tournament, lost to No. 17 Syracuse 63-52 in what could've been considered a quality road win to the NCAA Selection Committee in March.
WVU (16-9, 7-6 Big East Conference) lost to the Orange (21-6, 8-6) for the ninth- straight time and fall to ninth in the conference standings.
The game plan heading into contest for head coach Bob Huggins' team was clear, as they needed to hit open shots from the field to combat the Orange's 2-3 zone defense.
The Mountaineers did just that in the first half, as they were able to make 45.5 percent (10-for-22) from the field.
The team shot 53.8 percent (7-for-13) from three and were led by guard Casey Mitchell's 11 first-half points.
Syracuse opened play with a 3-pointer by guard Brandon Triche 18 seconds into the contest, but it did not get another basket until the 14:27 mark.
Aided by the Orange's scoring drought, the Mountaineers were able to take an early lead in the matchup, but Syracuse finally began to find its stroke.
The Orange used an 11-2 run to take their first lead of the game, but it would be short-lived, as WVU continually hit crucial 3-point baskets.
Consecutive threes by forward John Flowers and Mitchell gave the Mountaineers their largest lead of the game at six, and the half finished with WVU on top, 30-26.
Syracuse opened the second half with an offensive onslaught, which saw the Orange score 12 points on its first four offensive possessions.
This outburst gave the Orange a lead that they would not relinquish for the rest of the contest.
Flowers appeared to seize Syracuse's momentum for a moment when he brought the Mountaineers' bench to their feet with a dunk.
Triche, who led the Orange with 20 points on the night, immediately suppressed WVU's emotions, as he answered with a 3-pointer.
After a technical foul was assessed to Huggins, the Mountaineers came alive again and were able to cut the deficit to two points with 8:28 remaining in the game.
With their backs against the wall and Flowers on the bench in foul trouble, WVU did not respond for the remainder of the second half, and Syracuse continued to hit key shots.
The Mountaineers, on the other hand, turned the ball over, missed open shots and committed costly fouls in the last eight minutes of the game to end their chances at the upset bid.
After its hot-shooting first half, WVU hit just seven shots from the field, while turning the ball over nine times in the second half and 16 times in total.
Mitchell, who had a game-high 23 points, made four of the Mountaineers' seven second half-baskets.
Flowers was the only other WVU player to score in double-digits with 10 points.