WVU's struggles in South Bend continue
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - West Virginia's history of struggles here continued Wednesday as Notre Dame offered a historic performance in a 71-44 victory at the Joyce Center.
"I've never had a team give up 60-percent shooting in two halves," Mountaineers Coach Bob Huggins said. "Ever. You can look it up. Ever."
On top of that, the 20th-ranked Fighting Irish shot 64.1 percent from the floor and 56.3 percent from 3-point range. It's the first time a WVU opponent has shot better than 60 percent from the floor and 55 percent from 3-point range since Pepperdine in 2001.
The 27-point loss was the largest in Huggins' five seasons and the school's worst since an 84-46 loss at Villanova in 2005. The point total was the lowest since a 62-39 loss to Cincinnati in 2008.
WVU (17-11, 7-8 Big East) has lost 11 straight and 12 of 13 in the Joyce Center and is probably not upset if this is the last trip here for a long, long time as it departs the Big East for the Big 12.
Six days after the largest win on the road against Pitt in 45 years, the Mountaineers have just one day to prepare for the 9 p.m. home game against No. 10 Marquette.
"I'm definitely surprised," guard Truck Bryant said. "I'm actually embarrassed. To come here and lose on national TV (ESPN2) and to lose like the way we lost is embarrassing."
The Mountaineers have lost six of eight while Notre Dame won its school-record ninth consecutive Big East game. The Fighting Irish took control early in the second half with a lot of help from the Mountaineers, who turned it over three times for scores as the Irish scored 12 straight points in a 28-7 run to go up by 55-32.
WVU shot 31.5 percent for the game and missed 10 of 11 3-point shots. No player made more than half of his shots. Kevin Jones was 6-for-12 and had 15 points and eight rebounds.
He now has 1,001 career rebounds and is just the fourth WVU player to ever get 1,000. He joins Jerry West and Warren Baker as the only players with 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds.
Bryant returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench against Pitt and was 3-for-11 for 10 points - all in the first half. He was scoreless in the Feb. 8 loss to the Fighting Irish. Deniz Kilicli had eight points on 4-for-11 shooting.
The Mountaineers, who actually led by six points in the middle of the first half, scored 16 points in the second half. They scored 16 points in the first half of the previous game against Notre Dame.
"They played harder than us and they made shots and made all the necessary plays to win the game. We didn't," Jones said. "We didn't make shots. We took quick shots. We weren't able to rebound the way we wanted and the way we expected. That's why we lost."
Notre Dame (20-8, 12-3) had a lot to do with it, though, and started the first half making 8 of 11 shots and then started the second half making 9 of 12. The Irish, who don't rank in the top half of the Big East in field-goal shooting, 3-point shooting or scoring, made 63.2 percent of their shots in the first half and 60 percent in the second half, even while missing three of their final four shots.
"They're a good shooting team, but we were giving them open shots - step-in shots that are easy to make," Jones said. "We can't do that and expect to win. They're not going to miss a bunch of open shots."
The Mountaineers were down just 30-28 at the half, but fell apart early in the second half. Jabarie Hinds, who finished 1-for-9 shooting, threw the ball to a defender as he tried to get it to Kilicli. The defender, Eric Atkins, scored on a layup and finished a three-point play.
Gary Browne turned his back and dribbled away from the defense and had the ball stolen by Pat Connaughton, who passed ahead to Jerian Grant for a dunk.
Hinds then threw the ball away a second time and Connaughton was able to rebound his missed layup and sink a 3 for 42-32 lead after just 4 minutes, 6 seconds of the second half.
"That's what they do, that's how they play," Kilicli said. "They kind of make you go to sleep and play slow, slow, slow and then - bam - they make like three 3s in a row and you can't comeback from it."
The Irish finished 27-for-44 with 17 assists and four second-chance baskets on just five offensive rebounds. They also made 9 of 16 3-point attempts and missed the final four.
"They fatigued a little in the second half and we got loose and got some open looks," Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey said. "I'm actually kind of surprised we got away from them, but we made some shots."
Grant scored 20 points and Scott Martin added 15. They combined to shoot 13-for-18 from the floor and 7-for-9 from 3-point range. Atkins and Jack Cooley both had 13 points.
Huggins used just seven players for much of the game. Keaton Miles, who had played all 27 games and started 26, didn't play. Neither did Aaron Brown, who had come off the bench in every game.
Huggins said he didn't trust either to guard the screens in Notre Dame's offense.
"They weren't going to help us," he said.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.