INDIANAPOLIS - Witnesses were left with more than the sudden end of West Virginia's season near midnight Saturday. They may have gained a more realistic appreciation of the team and the journey, too.
Never before was it as clear how small the margin for error was for the Mountaineers and how good at some things they truly were to be Big East Tournament champions and Final Four participants.
The numbers were not pretty. The shooting percentage was low again. The total points didn't rival the average again. Yet none of that was new for the Mountaineers, who for quite some time had joked that their best chance to score was to miss a shot and score on the rebound and said through smiles that their defense needed to be good because their shooting was not.
The laughs stopped in the 78-57 loss to Duke in the national semifinal. On offense the Mountaineers were themselves - which is to say, very average - but decidedly different on defense and rebounding.
With those two strengths unable to support the known weakness, WVU had no chance to beat the blue-hot Blue Devils. Fans could sadly see how commendable the team's past performance really was to make it so far.
Things could have gone similarly sideways anywhere along the way, but the Mountaineers were able to win despite offensive futility before arriving at the end inside Lucas Oil Stadium.
"When your bread and butter aren't working, what the hell do you turn to?" point guard Joe Mazzulla said. "I think it caught us by surprise that our defense and rebounding didn't come and save us."
It had for nearly all of a 10-game winning streak that spanned the final three games of the regular-season, the three Big East Tournament games and the four games needed to reach the school's first Final Four since 1959.
The 41.3 percent shooting performance against Duke was better than six numbers posted during the winning streak - and there was a 41.4 in there, as well - and above the collective 39.7 percent the team has shot since the previous loss Feb. 22 at Connecticut.