MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia's season-ending, season-defining stretch where seven of the final nine games are against ranked opponents begins at noon Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center against No. 12 Villanova.
The enormity of the occasion can make things like Wednesday's 55-44 victory against Seton Hall seem a little trivial, though the 25th-ranked Mountaineers wouldn't hide behind that to explain their effort - or lack thereof at the end.
Instead, it's something they hope to learn from as they move toward what could be a fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
WVU (15-6, 6-3 Big East) led by 24 points in the second half, but was outscored 21-9 in the final 11:50, and, at one point during that run, missed 9 of 10 shots and committed six turnovers.
"We kind of fell into what their style of play was and we didn't control our tempo with our offensive style of play," point guard Joe Mazzulla said. "We got caught up in what Seton Hall does and it almost came back to bite us."
The Pirates, who a week earlier scored 90 points in a win against Syracuse's 2-3 zone inside the Carrier Dome, ended up scoring the fewest points against WVU in a Big East game. They did find some pace and put a few things together to do nearly half its damage in the final quarter of the game.
It was a timely test for WVU as it prepares to play against the Wildcats (18-4, 6-3) in a game televised on ESPN. Villanova had lost two in a row and three of four before beating Marquette, 75-70, at home Wednesday.
Villanova is fifth in the conference in scoring offense (76.0 points per game) and No. 2 in Big East games (75.0). WVU hasn't scored more than 66 points the past four games. In Big East play WVU has topped the 74 points scored in a four-point loss at Marquette on New Year's Day just once - a 93-63 home win against Providence.
"What we can take from this is we can't get caught up in their style of play because it doesn't work," Mazzulla said. "We can't let them control the tempo. We have to play our style and rebound and play defense and run our offense."