Saturday, March 25, 2006

 

Mountaineer's Lose Heartbreaker

The two NCAA Tournament combatants traded blows and they traded shots, but in the end, it was Texas which managed to one-up the Mountaineers, pulling out a thrilling 74-71 victory in the NCAA’s Atlanta Regional semifinals Thursday night.

West Virginia fought back after first half struggle to make a game of it in the second half. Kevin Pittsnogle’s three-pointer with five seconds left tied the contest at 71 and seemed to send it to overtime. But the No. 2 seed Longhorns (30-6) had time enough for one last shot, and that final one proved to be a dagger deep into the Mountaineers’ hearts. UT pushed the ball up court after Pittsnogle’s game-tyer, and senior guard Kenton Paulino found himself with the ball, 22 feet from the basket and with time quickly running out. He double clutched and put the shot up just ahead of the buzzer. Officials would later check to make sure that the ball had left his hands before the clock struck :00, but it clearly had, and when it rippled the net, Texas was moving on and West Virginia was going home.

It was the end of an incredible ride for WVU’s five seniors – J.D. Collins, Patrick Beilein, Jo Herber, Mike Gansey and Kevin Pittsnogle. They took the Mountaineers to incredible heights, and proved to be an awfully tough out in the NCAA Tourney. Last season it was an overtime loss to Louisville in the Elite Eight, and this year it took an unbelievable shot by Paulino.

WVU found itself in a hole early in the game. P.J. Tucker got Texas on the board at the outset, taking a feed inside from LaMarcus Aldridge for an easy two. Kevin Pittsnogle tried to respond, but his three from the corner rattled out. That would be the theme for WVU early, as three straight three-point attempts by the Mountaineers in as many trips failed to find the mark, as did a Mike Gansey lay-up try on West Virginia’s fourth possession. Pittsnogle eventually got West Virginia on the board with a trey from the opposite corner 3:20 into the game, but the Longhorns were in front 6-3 at that point.

The UT lead wouldn’t last much longer. A deep three by Gansey and then another by Pittsnogle off a spinning drive and kick from Jo Herber left WVU in front, 9-6, when the weak horn for the first media timeout sounded. (The electronic horn, as well as the main overhead scoreboard in the Georgia Dome, malfunctioned in the first game Thursday night, when LSU defeated Duke. There were a number of other scoreboards in the huge arena still working, but game officials were forced to use an air horn instead of the electronic one, leaving audio impression that the game was an extremely well attended intramural affair.)

The Mountaineers wouldn’t score for the next several minutes, though, and after the Longhorns connected twice from the inside, they held a 10-9 advantage at the next media timeout, which came at the 11:56 mark. WVU’s scoreless drought would end at 10:50 when a Patrick Beilein triple left West Virginia on top 12-11.

That inside-vs.-outside contest continued throughout much of the rest of the half. For the first 15 minutes of the game, the Mountaineers didn’t score a bucket from inside the three-point arc, and Texas didn’t score one from beyond 15 feet. But UT’s accuracy rate was much better than West Virginia’s, and the Longhorns were left with a 23-15 lead when the first half clock struck 6:07.

WVU’s first points from anywhere but three-point range came when Herber made a couple of free throws with 4:46 left in the half, and when Gansey converted two more foul shots 19 seconds later, West Virginia was down only four, 26-22. But Texas responded with two quick buckets of its own to push its advantage back to eight, and it would continue to expand that margin, taking a 12-point lead, 39-27, into the lockerroom, despite a bucket from J.D. Collins right before the halftime horn. Collins’ buzzerbeater (err, hornbeater) would be the Mountaineers only two-point field goal of the first half.

Pat Beilein was the only WVU player who had any touch inside the spacious Dome, but that did seem fair since the coach’s son was celebrating his 23rd birthday. He had nine points, as he made three of four shots, all from three-point range. The rest of the Mountaineers combined to make just five of 20 field goal attempts and four of 14 three-point tries.

The first half numbers for West Virginia weren’t any better in the other statistical categories. Not only was Texas dominating the Mountaineers on the boards (18-7), but UT, which committed 24 turnovers compared to just 11 for WVU in the earlier meeting this season, was even in the turnover department, 7-7. West Virginia also had no solution for Longhorn center LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 16 first half points, making all eight of his field goal attempts.

The Mountaineers didn’t stop their three-point snipping at the start of the second half. The thing they did do differently was they started making them. First Pittsnogle and then Herber, and just for good measure, Collins scored on a lay-up after a Gansey steal, all in the first minute to pull WVU within four, 39-35.

West Virginia kept creeping closer, getting to within three at a couple junctures, and then within two, 44-42, after Herber three with 14 minutes remaining. Texas pushed its lead back out to 53-47, but then a Beilein lay-up and a conventional three-point play from Gansey had the Mountaineers down by just one, 53-52, with 10:26 left.

The two clubs battle back and forth. UT got a single free throw from Aldridge and then a baseline jumper from Mike Williams, but Beilein answered with another three. The trey put Patrick over the 1,000-point mark for his career, and a short time later when Pittsnogle drained yet another triple, the game was tied 58-58 with 7:53 showing. The Mountaineers were heating up, and a Gansey kept the fire burning, knocking down a three with 7:15 on the clock to give WVU its first lead, 61-58, since a 9-8 advantage early in the first half.

Texas wasn’t going away either, though, and a couple P.J. Tucker free throws and then an Aldridge fadeaway gave UT the lead back at 63-61 as the clock ticked inside of five minutes. Frank Young had a chance to tie the game, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Tucker gave the Longhorns a four-point lead with a spinning drive at the 4:03 mark.

Herber brought West Virginia two points closer at 65-63, hitting a 10-footer in the lane with 3:18 showing, but Kenton Paulino answered for Texas. Gansey’s drive got WVU within two again, 67-65, and the Mountaineers had a chance to take the lead, but Beilein’s three-point attempt was off the mark. Aldridge, who apparently fouled on his elbow by Pittsnogle’s nose, made a subsequent single free throw, and with 1:30 remaining, the Texas lead was three, 68-65. The UT advantage went to five when A.J. Abrams connected on a pair of foul shots, but when Gansey nailed a deep three with 14.7 left, the Mountaineers trailed by just two, 70-68.

Beilein fouled Aldridge on the ensuing inbounds pass. It was Patrick’s fifth of the game, and the senior guard left to a round of applause by the Mountaineer faithful who had made the trip to Atlanta. In the double bounce situation, Aldridge missed the first free throw but made the second. With 13.9 showing, the UT lead was now three, 71-68. After a Texas timeout, West Virginia moved the ball quickly up court. Herber drove and kicked to Pittsnogle at the top of the key, who drained the game-tying three as the clock struck 5.0 seconds. While the crowd still gasped, the Longhorns hustled up court, and Paulino found himself with the ball on the left wing with under two seconds. The senior rose up from 20 feet and bury a game-winning shot, and in the process, West Virginia’s season.

Monday, March 20, 2006

 

How Sweet It Is

It may have lacked some of the drama and last second excitement of last year’s first two NCAA victories, but the end result was another Mountaineer trip to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16, and this year it came without quite as many heart palpitations and grey hairs for the West Virginia faithful, though things did get a little dicey for a few minutes on Sunday.

But in the end, WVU earned its second straight journey to the Sweet 16 thanks to a 67-54 victory over Northwestern State Sunday afternoon at The Palace in Auburn Hills (Mich.) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The 14th-seeded Demons (26-8) had played Cinderella in the first round with a 66-63 victory over No. 3 Iowa. But against the senior-laden, tournament-tested Mountaineers, a No. 6 seed who now hold a 22-10 record, the glass slipper wasn’t going to fit this time.

West Virginia is headed to the Sweet 16 for just the fourth time in school history. Jerry West and the Mountaineers went all the way to the national championship game in 1959, and in 1998, Gale Catlett’s squad upset Cincinnati in the second round in Boise en route to the Sweet 16. And of course, John Beilein’s club advanced all the way to the Elite Eight last year before bowing out.

The Mountaineers didn’t need a Jerrod West buzzerbeater or double overtime heroics against Wake Forest to win in the second round this time, as West Virginia simply took care of business against the Demons.

Northwestern State started out well enough, hitting a few early shots, and its aggressive defensive pressure forced WVU into a couple turnovers in the opening minutes, as the Demons jumped out to a 6-2 lead.

But just like they did on Friday in the first round, the Mountaineers settled down after the first few minutes. The only difference was that while West Virginia was using outside jumpers against Southern Illinois, on Sunday against NSU, it was the drive which got WVU early points. J.D. Collins hit the first three for the Mountaineers at the 15:10 mark, giving them a 10-6 advantage. Another trey by Patrick Beilein on the next trip down court and just 14 seconds after West Virginia’s sixth man came off the bench, made the score 13-7. The WVU’s bench produced a second straight bucket, this a lay-up by Rob Summers, to push the Mountaineers’ margin to eight, 15-7. The lead would grow as large as 12 by the 10-minute mark and then to 15 by 14:41 after a quick five-point flurry from Kevin Pittsnogle. The senior center, who had just one point up until then, drained a three, and then running the court, he scored on a lay-up after a steal by Mike Gansey. The score was 30-15, and NSU coach Mike McConathy took his team’s first time out.

Again, much like Friday’s win over the Salukis, the Mountaineers were getting contributions from throughout the rotation. Not only did Summers, who averaged only 0.5 points a game coming into the NCAA Tournament, score his second bucket in as many Big Dance outings, but Alex Ruoff also gave WVU quality minutes. And when Jo Herber went to the bench with a second foul midway through the first half, West Virginia coach John Beilein used his two point guards – Collins and Darris Nichols – together at the same time, something Beilein had done only occasionally in the regular season. Nichols in particular responded well, handling the Demons’ in-your-face defense without too much trouble and also playing well on his own defensive end, taking two charges. In addition, the sophomore scored on nice drive, and when he banked in a 50-foot three-pointer from a beyond midcourt at the halftime buzzer, WVU was comfortably in control, 41-19, as it headed to the lockerroom. The 22-point advantage was the second largest halftime lead the Mountaineers had enjoyed all season, topped only by a 23-point margin (48-25) vs. Washington & Jefferson back on Dec. 3. West Virginia went on to a 50-point rout (83-33) of the Division III Prexies at the Coliseum that day.

Though WVU turned the ball over eight times in the first half, its offense functioned well when it maintained control of the ball. West Virginia made 14 of 26 first half shots (53.8 percent), including six of 14 from three-point range. The 41-point output was just the second time in the last 20 games that WVU had surpassed the 40-point barrier in the first half, as the only other time West Virginia had eclipsed that mark since Jan. 1 was when it took a 48-43 lead into the half against Marquette on Jan. 14. But it was the Mountaineer defense as much as their offense which was responsible for the halftime bulge. WVU forced Northwestern State into 17 first half turnovers, as the Mountaineers had nine steals and outscored NSU 19-4 in points off turnovers.

Add it all up and it led to a 41-19 halftime lead, and West Virginia cultivated that in the early moments of the second half. After Herber knocked down a couple free throws 2:51 into the period, WVU’s lead was 48-23.

But Northwestern State wasn’t about to go away without a fight. After all, the Demons had rallied for victory in seven games this season when it trailed by double figures. Obviously the most dramatic of those was against Iowa, when NSU erased a 17-point second half deficit.

Northwestern went on 21-5 run over an 11-minute span to draw within 53-44. But a couple of Pittsnogle free throws stemmed the tide for the time being. NSU didn’t fold, though. With Collins, Herber and Pittsnogle all on the bench with four fouls, and Gansey beside them suffering from cramps, the Demons pulled to within 57-49 with four minutes left. But that would be as close as Northwestern would get before the Mountaineers finally hit some shots to put the game away.

Pittsnogle finished with 14 points, while Frank Young added 10 for WVU. Clifton Lee had 11 for Northwestern State.

WVU (22-10) to face Texas on Thursday in Atlanta. Duke and LSU will meet in the other regional semifinal from the Georgia Dome. Game times will be announced later this week.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

 

Pittsnogle And The Mountaineers Dump The Salukis

The Mountaineer basketball team lived to play another day, rolling past Southern Illinois Friday afternoon at The Palace at Auburn Hills, 64-46.

West Virginia (21-10) got contributions from people throughout the rotation, as it moved on to Sunday’s second round of the NCAA Tourney. The Mountaineers will meet Northwestern (26-7) in the second round. The No. 14 seed Demons stunned No. 3 Iowa in the first game Friday, 64-63. Tipoff on Sunday from The Palace at Auburn Hills is scheduled for 2:40 p.m.

SIU hit three quick shots to start Friday’s game, and West Virginia turned the ball over on two of its first three trips down the court, as the Salukis jumped out to a quick 6-2 lead. But then a three-pointer by Frank Young and a put-back by Kevin Pittsnogle gave WVU its first lead of the game, 7-6, with just over four minutes off the clock.

The Mountaineers took control from there. Pittsnogle popped out for a trey a minute later, which became part of a 13-2 run after a couple Jo Herber free throws and a Patrick Beilein three. Southern coach Chris Lowery took a timeout to slow the run at the 13:35 mark with the Mountaineers holding onto a 15-8 advantage.

The timeout slowed West Virginia’s momentum, and SIU pulled back to within three, 20-17, after a Jamaal Tatum three-pointer with 8:40 left in the opening half. But then Alex Ruoff, who had scored just three points since Dec. 10, nailed a trey and a short while later collected an offensive rebound and was quickly fouled, sending him to the line for a one-and-one. The freshman forward from Florida, who hadn’t attempted a free throw all season, missed the front end, but Young tracked down the long carom and dished it out to J.D. Collins, who nailed a three. West Virginia’s run would quickly spurt out to 10-0, as another WVU role player, Rob Summers, scored a lay-up off a feed from Collins, and then Young drilled another trey, leaving the Mountaineers on top by 14, 31-17, as the clock hit 5:00. The run would eventually move to 13-0 when Pittsnogle got a friendly bounce on a three-pointer before the Salukis broke through with their first bucket in almost five minutes, scoring inside to narrow the West Virginia advantage to 34-19.

SIU scored five more points before Beilein drove in for a lay-up to give WVU a 36-24 lead at the end of the first half. The Mountaineers offensive production in the opening 20 minutes was a good sign against a Southern Illinois defense which was fourth in the nation in points allowed, giving up only 56.2 a game prior to the NCAA Tournament. SIU had allowed more than 36 points in the first half just twice all season, and the Salukis had gone on to lose both times – 42 at Missouri State on Jan. 19 in a 71-63 Southern loss and 37 at Alaska-Anchorage on Nov. 25 in a 72-64 defeat in the Great Alaska Shootout. In fact, Southern Illinois, which came to The Palace at Auburn Hills with a 22-10 record, was just 2-5 when it had given up 30 or more first half points, and it was 2-9 on the season when it had given up 60 or more points for the entire game.

Though the Saluki defense did force the Mountaineers’ normally solid ballhandlers into eight first half turnovers – WVU averaged just 8.5 turnovers for an entire game coming into the NCAAs – West Virginia did shoot the ball fairly well, hitting 10 of 20 shots from the floor and seven of 15 from three-point range (46.7 percent). Though Mike Gansey, who was still suffering the effects of a strained stomach muscle suffered at last week’s Big East Tournament, was scoreless in the first 20 minutes, his teammates picked up the slack. Pittsnogle led the way with 10 points, as eight different Mountaineers scored in the first half.

Southern Illinois shot a respectable 47.8 percent from the field in the opening half (11 of 23), but it turned the ball over nine times, and the normally weak rebounding Mountaineers (one of the worst in Division I with a -9.7 rebounding margin per game) managed a 15-8 advantage on the boards.

The two teams traded baskets for the first eight minutes of the second half. SIU never got closer than 10, and WVU never got ahead by more than 14. Leading 45-32 at the under 12-minute media timeout, a weak pass by Pittsnogle was picked off by Tatum, who was fouled in the scramble by Collins, his fourth of the game. Tatum scored on a lay-up a short time later, but West Virginia kept its cool and made shots. Gansey finally got into the scoring column, driving in for a lay-up and then tipping in an offensive rebound. That started a 12-0 WVU run, that stemmed the SIU tide and left the Mountaineers on top 59-37 as the clock ticked inside of five minutes.

From there, West Virginia cruised to the victory, winning in the opening round of the Big Dance for the second straight season. It’s only the second time in school history that WVU has managed wins in the NCAA Tourney in back-to-back season, as the only other time was 1959 and 1960.

The 18-point margin of victory is the second largest for the Mountaineers in their 36 NCAA Tournament games. Only WVU’s 82-52 win over Temple in the first round of the 1998 was more. The 46 points scored by SIU was also the lowest ever allowed by West Virginia in the NCAAs.

Pittsnogle wound up with a game-high 18 points against the Salukis. Gansey bounced back from a scoreless first half with 10 in the second. Matt Shaw and Jamaal Tatum were the only two SIU players who finished in double figures, as each had 12 points.

The Mountaineers also outrebounded Southern Illinois, 31-26. It was only the fourth game all year that WVU has outrebounded its opponent.

Monday, March 13, 2006

 

Mountaineers Are A 6 Seed

Kevin Pittsnogle and the Mountaineers were knocked
out of the big east tournament by pitt.

The Mountaineers are a 6 seed in the ncaa tournament
they will be playing the No. 11 seed Salukis of Southern Illinois.

It is the second straight season WVU has earned an NCAA bid. The Mountaineers won three games in the tourney last year before falling to Louisville in overtime in the Elite Eight round.

The game will be on Friday in Auburn Hills, Mich

Monday, March 06, 2006

 

Big East Tournament Starts This Week

Kevin Pittsnogle and the team will be getting for they game on thursday
they will play the winner of the louisville-pitt game at 9 pm thursday.

Go WVU

Sunday, March 05, 2006

 

WVU Falls In Regular Season Finale At Cincinnati

In a game that mattered much more to Cincinnati’s tournament life than West Virginia, the Bearcats pulled out a 78-75 victory Saturday in the regular season finale for both clubs at UC’s Fifth Third Arena.

WVU (20-9/11-5) entered the game ranked 16th in the country and locked into the No. 3 seed in terms of the upcoming Big East Conference Tournament. That third seed already had secured the Mountaineers a bye through the first round, meaning they would not play until Thursday night at 9 p.m. (ESPN) at Madison Square Garden. They will be awaiting the winner of the 6/11 game, which will be played Wednesday night at 9 o’clock. West Virginia’s NCAA Tournament bid is also secure, but the same could not be said for the Bearcats entering Saturday’s clash. But after Cincy’s three-point victory over WVU, UC appears fairly secure in making the NCAA field when the brackets for the Big Dance are announced on Sunday, March 12. Cincinnati (19-11 overall and 8-8 in the Big East Conference) will finish eighth in the league, unless Syracuse (19-10/7-8) upsets Villanova (23-3/13-2) in the regular season finale for those two on Sunday. In that case, the Orange would be eighth and UC ninth. Regardless of what order, Cincinnati and Syracuse will meet in the first round of the Big East Tourney on Wednesday, playing the opening game at noon pitting No. 8 vs. No. 9.

Right from the outset, Cincinnati played like a team that had a lot at stake Saturday. The ‘Cats made their first three shots from the floor, including a couple of three-pointers, to jump out to an 8-2 lead. Though WVU fought its way back and went in front 13-12, UC again got hot in the closing moments of the first half and took a 37-31 lead into the lockerroom at the game’s midway point.

The Bearcats came out of the half and continued their drive, extending their advantage to 48-35, before West Virginia got its own offense in gear. Kevin Pittsnogle, who had 11 first half points and 23 for the game, was the only consistent scoring threat WVU had the first 25 minutes, but then Mike Gansey jumped into the mix. He scored 16 of his 20 points in the final 15 minutes, leading a Mountaineer charge that brought them within three at a couple different junctures down the stretch. But West Virginia’s final couple attempts to tie were unsuccessful, and UC held on for the 78-73 victory.

Besides the 43 combined points WVU got from Pittsnogle and Gansey, Frank Young also contributed 13 points. Cincinnati got a very balanced scoring effort, as Eric Hicks led the way with 18 points, Jihad Muhammad add 17, while Devan Downey and James White finished with 16 and 15 respectively. Downey also had 10 assists, while turning it over just once. As a team, UC turned the ball over only seven times, 11 less than in its 66-57 loss at West Virginia a month ago.

The Mountaineers turned the ball over just seven times themselves, while also hitting 12 of 28 three-point attempts. But WVU couldn’t get the key defensive stop when it needed it.

 

Pittsnogle Finalist For Bayer Class Award

West Virginia center Kevin Pittsnogle is one of 10 male and female finalists for the 2005-06 Bayer Advantage® Senior CLASS Award. These finalists will be on the official ballot for the nation's premier tribute to college seniors.

The award, now in its fifth year, is presented annually to the nation's senior player-of-the-year for NCAA Division I men's and women's basketball.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

 

Pittsnogle's 26 lead West Va. past Pitt

West Virginia had many goals heading into its home finale Monday night against Pitt – gain revenge on the Panthers for a 57-53 victory in Pittsburgh earlier this month, continued to stock its resume for the NCAA Tournament, clink at least third place in the Big East Conference final standings, and last but not least, send the team’s five seniors out on a high note in the last game of their illustrious careers in the Coliseum.

Mark this one “mission accomplished.”

The Mountaineers used the emotions of senior night to jump out to a 13-2 start, and while the No. 8 Panthers (21-5/10-5) fought their way back and made WVU battle to the end, when the final horn sounded, West Virginia was holding a 67-62 advantage. That sent many in the crowd of 14,805 (the ninth largest in Coliseum history) flooding onto the court to celebrate with seniors J.D. Collins, Patrick Beilein, Jo Herber, Mike Gansey and Kevin Pittsnogle.

It certainly was the night for the five seniors. For the first time ever, all five started together – usually junior Frank Young starts and Beilein comes off the bench. And after hearing his German national anthem sung in the pregame, Herber came out like a man possessed. With his sister, mother and his mother’s boyfriend in attendance, having made the trip in from Darmstadt, Germany, Jo drilled three three-pointers in the first 2:43 to help the Mountaineers jump out to a 13-2 lead. Herber added another triple about five minutes later, and he finished the game with 16 points.

When Herber slowed down, Pittsnogle heated up. Held scoreless in the loss at Pitt on Feb. 9, Kevin attacked the Panthers with a vengeance, scoring 26 points, as he hit five of 12 three-point attempts, as well as four of nine two-pointers. Gansey added eight points, as well as a team-high seven rebounds. Collins chipped in seven, while Beilein contributed six, as the WVU seniors contributed all but four of the Mountaineers’ 67 points.

Pitt’s leading scorer, center Aaron Gray, was limited to seven points, but the Panthers got 12 points from both Ronald Ramon and Sam Young and 10 from Levance Fields and Carl Krauser to keep West Virginia from pulling away. Though Pitt did not lead and the only tie was at 0-0, it never allowed WVU to lead by more than seven points in the final 15 minutes. But every time the Panthers would close to within a bucket, one of the Mountaineers’ five seniors would make a play to provide West Virginia a little breathing room. A lay-up by Herber and then a pair of foul shots by both Pittsnogle and Herber, all in the last 30 seconds, held off Pitt’s final charge.

WVU, which is currently ranked No. 16 and holds a 20-8 overall record and an 11-4 league mark, will play its final regular season game at Cincinnati Saturday at noon before moving on to the Big East Tourney. West Virginia has clinched no worse than a third-place seed. It could move up to No. 2, but only if Villanova (22-3/12-2) loses its final two games (home against St. John’s Wednesday and at Syracuse Sunday) while WVU wins at Cincy on Saturday.

If West Virginia winds up third, as expected, it will earn a bye in the first round for the first time since it joined the Big East 11 seasons ago. The No. 3 seed will play the last quarterfinal game on Thursday, March 9, tipping off at 9 p.m. against the No. 6/11 winner. It’s very possible Pitt could find itself as the No. 6 seed, setting up a potential rematch in Madison Square Garden.

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