WVU will face underdog again
Team can’t afford losses in Big East
Published: Thursday, January 20, 2011
Updated: Thursday, January 20, 2011 21:01
Just when West Virginia thought it was about to start meeting expectations, this happens.
The Mountaineers admittedly overlooked in-state rival Marshall in the Capital Classic and were punished with a 75-71 loss, which ended WVU's four-game winning streak that included two upsets of top-15 teams.
Now, as quick as West Virginia climbed into the top-25 polls, it will likely be knocked out.
"Knowing where we were at four games ago, we didn't want to be back in this spot," said WVU junior Kevin Jones. "Yet, we're right here again."
The Mountaineers said their will to win the Capital Classic wasn't where it needed to be, though their intensity was outmatched by the underdog Herd. West Virginia will once again be faced with that scenario Sunday when it hosts South Florida at the WVU Coliseum at 2 p.m.
The Bulls are 7-12 this season and are just 2-9 in their last 11 games. Like the Marshall series, the Mountaineers haven't lost to South Florida since 2006, including a 69-50 win last season.
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said more upsets of WVU will occur if the Mountaineers don't play as a team, something it did against MU.
"We're not good enough, and we don't have good enough players to not play together. It's painfully obvious," Huggins said. "I have a hard time getting through to these guys that if we don't play together and play as hard as we're capable of playing, we're not going to win."
Jones said the Mountaineers' struggles center around basic aspects, such as not paying attention in practice. It was frustrating, the junior said, that Marshall wanted the Capital Classic win more than the Mountaineers.
"It's not that we're not confident," said point guard Joe Mazzulla. "We just forget what we need to do and forget our roles. We need to remember that's how we win games."
Mazzulla said WVU must learn from, then forget about, the loss to the Herd as soon as possible. A win against South Florida would surely help. The Mountaineers play 13-consecutive Big East Conference matchups to end the season, nine of which are against currently-ranked opponents.
After West Virginia hosts the Bulls it will travel to Louisville and Cincinnati, who have a combined 31-6 record.
But the Mountaineers now know that they can't overlook their matchup with South Florida Sunday.
"This South Florida game is going to be a must-win for us," Jones said. "We have to bounce back and get this out of our minds. I honestly think we can contend for the Big East. We just have to play hard again."