SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- By this point of the basketball season, which is 25 games old, West Virginia has a good idea what kind of team it is.
With only five games to go before the postseason, which will go on for as long as the unreliable offense and uncharacteristic defense will allow, the Mountaineers managed to surprise themselves Monday night in the Carrier Dome.
"We played great in the first half," said point guard Joe Mazzulla. "The second half was the total opposite."
The result was a 63-52 loss to the No. 17 Orange.
The Mountaineers shared the ball and shot well to take a 30-26 halftime lead. In the second half, they went away from and were taken out of almost all the things that worked earlier. Syracuse outscored WVU by 15 points and shot 52.2 percent in the second half while the Mountaineers gave away possessions with turnovers and bad shots before an increasingly effective crowd of 22,669.
"I'm surprised we turned the ball over as much as we did, considering they play back in a 2-3 zone," forward John Flowers said. "But we turned the ball over and that led to transition baskets and we didn't get back at all on defense. It was an all-around bad team effort getting back on defense and being in the game mentally."
Syracuse (21-6, 8-6) had lost six of eight, but won for the 12th time in 13 games in the series. The Orange started the second half with a 15-5 run and ended the game with a 12-3 run. They outrebounded WVU 35-28 and outscored the Mountaineers 34-4 in the paint and 19-0 on fast breaks.
The Mountaineers finished first in one category - they had two more turnovers (16-14).
WVU (16-9, 7-6) lost for the third time in four games and the third time in seven games when allowing fewer than 70 points. The Mountaineers had won 36 such games before losing to Louisville on Jan. 26 by a 55-54 count.
It's also the fifth consecutive game and the sixth time in seven games the Mountaineers were outscored in the second half -- the exception being the win at Cincinnati Jan. 29. WVU is 2-4 in the six games.
"We've got to realize teams are going to come out harder in the second half," guard Casey Mitchell said. "We tried to do the same things in the second half that we did in the first half because we had a four-point lead, but we didn't realize they were going to come out hard and hit more shots because they wanted to win the game in the second half."
Mitchell led all scorers with 23 points, the most he has scored since getting 28 at Georgetown Jan. 8. Mitchell made a career-high seven 3-pointers on 12 attempts. It was necessary because the points weren't coming from other sources. Flowers had 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting. The other seven Mountaineers were 5-for-26 for 19 points.
Kevin Jones was 2-for-8 and had a season-low four points. Deniz Kilicli was 1-for-7 and had three points. Both had good and familiar shots.
"Kevin had shots. He didn't make any. Deniz had shots. He didn't make any," Coach Bob Huggins said. "Casey was making shots. We've got to go to who's making shots.
"We still tried to throw it in there, but our inside guys didn't score the ball -- and they had the same shots they have all the time. It wasn't like they had different shots. Those were the same shots. Those are two guys we depend on to score the ball for us."