Saturday, January 30, 2010

West Virginia vs. Louisville Thoughts

In today's game against the Louisville Cardinals, the Mountaineers once again did just enough to pull out a last second victory and cover up another subpar performace. WVU played well for the first five minutes and the last five minutes, leaving a very forgetable 30 minutes in between. The Mountaineers were very fortunate to come out of this game with a win, as Louisville outshot (52% to 40%), outrebounded (32 to 30), and generally outhustled WVU for most of the game. Continuing an alarming trend, West Virginia was often rattled by Louisville's full court pressure, giving up several turnovers that resulted in easy Cardinal buckets. WVU also had trouble against the zone defense, not moving the ball well and dribbling on the perimeter without driving to the basket. After a hot shooting start, the Mountaineers began looking for three's instead of trying to penetrate for higher percentage shots. On the other side Louisville seemed to have no trouble driving on West Virginia's defenders and either getting good looks close to the rim or kicking out to wide open shooters outside. Through all this, West Virginia still came out on top, but they were helped by a large free throw differential (26/35 vs just 9/13 for UL), some questionable calls on out-of-bounds rulings by the officials, and foul trouble for Louisville. However, to their credit, the intensity was high down the stretch, and the call to switch to the 1-3-1 zone with just over 5 minutes left was brilliant and threw UL's offense enough to let West Virginia catch up. Once again Butler was key, hitting clutch shots late in the game, including the go ahead bucket with less than 20 seconds to play. Moving on deeper into the ruthless Big East, West Virginia must improve ball movement against zone defenses and learn not to panic against full court pressure. Playing a variety of defenses throughout the game may also be helpful as most teams seem to be able to drive against West Virginia's man-to-man, switch every screen defense. The Mountaineers also need better production from the bench, as reserves contributed just 5 points in today's effort.

Player of Game: Da'Sean Butler - 27 pts.

Next entry will begin the countdown of top 10 WVU football wins of the decade. Games will be picked based on their excitement level, their impact on that season, and their impact on the overall football program.

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