INSTITUTE, W.Va. - After a solid performance in a close loss Saturday at Glenville State, West Virginia State men's basketball Coach Bryan Poore didn't see Monday night's buzzsaw coming. But the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown cut through the Yellow Jackets, stunning them in a 90-58 loss and sending WVSU to its fourth straight defeat.
Dominated in the paint and scorched from 3-point range, West Virginia State (6-11, 4-8 West Virginia Conference) now must recalibrate, Poore said. As bad as Monday's loss was, all is not lost.
"Our goal now is, at the end of February, they play a tournament," he said. "The team that wins four games wins, and it doesn't matter how many you lose during the regular season. That's got to be our goal, to focus on the next practice, get better in the next practice and next game and just push forward."
Monday's game should be an easy one for the Yellow Jackets to leave behind. State hit just one of its first 12 shots and trailed by 20 midway through the first half. And while a quick scoring flurry cut the Mountain Cats' (9-7, 6-7 WVC) lead to 10 near the end of the first half, the Yellow Jackets never got that close again.
UPJ pushed the pace, scored 42 points in the paint and hit 11 of 25 3-pointers. In the beginning, it was Bill Luther who lit up WVSU, hitting four of his first six 3s. Near the end, it was Jordan Miller, who made five of seven from 3-point range to tie UPJ teammate Nick Novak with a game-high 17 points.
The closest the Yellow Jackets came in a comeback was with 3:29 left in the first half. Raymon Austin hit a jumper that made the score 35-25 and capped an 11-2 WVSU run. But UPJ closed the half with a 10-0 run of its own, ending when Novak was fouled on a buzzer-beater 3-point attempt and made two of three free throws to send WVSU into halftime down 45-25.
Austin led all players with 14 rebounds, including eight off the offensive glass, and finished with seven points on 3-of-12 shooting. Ian Vescovi went scoreless for UPJ, but pulled down 12 rebounds and blocked seven shots. WVSU shot 32.4 percent from the floor and 30 percent from 3-point range Monday.
"As the game went on, the score just increased," said WVSU senior forward David Ford, who tied Brandon Ross for the team high of 11 points. "We had a tough time hitting shots early. That was our main problem. You've just got to play way better than that."
Poore thought his Yellow Jackets would. They entered Monday's game losing their last three, but he saw promise in the Glenville State game. WVSU shot 50 percent from the floor in a 74-71 loss and it looked like that momentum would carry over.
"I thought we had a pretty good film session and had a spirited practice yesterday," he said. "I thought we'd play better tonight. But we didn't, so now we've got to go back to the drawing board and go back to work."