West Virginia upsets Marquette

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Sunday, January 6, 2008
— For a coach like Tom Crean, who stresses the importance of rebounding and defensive communication to his Marquette University men’s basketball team virtually every minute of every day, Sunday was about as bad as it gets.

Able to grab just five rebounds in the second half—including none on the offensive end—and allowing West Virginia to shoot a sizzling 68.2 percent over those same 20 minutes, Marquette wound up falling to the Mountaineers, 79-64, at WVU Coliseum.

All told, 10th-ranked Marquette (11-2, 1-1 Big East) was beaten on the boards, 38-26, and surrendered 19 points apiece to the Mountaineers’ two top scorers, Alex Ruoff and Joe Alexander.

Ruoff, one of the league’s top three-point shooters, scored 16 points in the second half alone, burying all four of his threes with minimal resistance presented by the Golden Eagles.

“That’s ridiculous, isn’t it? That’s an inexcusable thing,” Crean said of his team’s inability to rebound.

“Sixteen offensive rebounds is our goal. We had eight at half, and we didn’t get one in the second half. You’re not going to win on the road getting out-rebounded by 12. You’re not going to win on the road letting people have open shots.”

Lazar Hayward and Wesley Matthews scored 13 points each to lead Marquette, which lost for the first time since Nov. 21 and is now searching for whatever mojo it had coming out of its drubbing of Providence with just two days to prepare for its next game against Seton Hall.

Dominic James and Jerel McNeal each had 10 points.

Things looked as though they might get out of control quickly for Marquette coming out of the locker room in the second half. West Virginia (11-3, 1-1) ran off an 8-0 run in less than two minutes to jump ahead by 36-28, forcing Crean to call a quick timeout.

McNeal answered the call immediately with a driving reverse layup, and just like that the Golden Eagles were off and running. Cinching down on defense and running at every opportunity, they outscored the Mountaineers 15-4 over the next 4:05 to take their biggest lead of the game, 43-40.

West Virginia answered with an 11-3 run to regain the advantage, getting baskets from five different players in the process. Marquette, meanwhile, began to suffer from the effects of the physical play.

First, Hayward was forced to the bench at the 10:23 mark after picking up his fourth personal foul. A little more than 3 minutes later McNeal joined him after picking up his fourth as well.

Without either on the floor, the Golden Eagles struggled to get good looks on offense and were trailing 56-50 when Crean made the call to bring Hayward back with 5:49 left.

He made his second three of the game a little more than a minute later, but Ruoff answered with his second three in little more than 2 minutes to make it 61-53. Things went from bad to worse from there when Hayward fouled out after being whistled for charging on a layup attempt.

“One of two things have to happen: He either has to move his feet better, or I’ve got to bring him off the bench, much like we’re doing with Ousmane (Barro),” Crean said. “That charge call I thought was shaky at best … and all of a sudden we’ve got an excellent scorer sitting on the bench.”

Crean brought McNeal back not long thereafter, but it wound up making little difference. Ruoff’s fourth three of the half and then a parade to the free-throw line made the Mountaineers’ lead insurmountable.

“He got open shots. You’re not supposed to leave him,” Crean said. “We ended up having to play Dominic too many minutes because I never felt comfortable with a second defender on Ruoff as much, and that’s got to change.”

The Golden Eagles managed just one field goal over a stretch of 7:32.

Marquette was out of sorts from the opening tip, thanks in large part to its inability to solve West Virginia coach Bob Huggins’ zone-defense twist.

Utilizing a triangle-and-two on makes and a 1-3-1 on misses, the tactic led to four turnovers and two quick fouls on Hayward in the opening 3 1/2 minutes as MU struggled to put anything together.

“We were prepared for that,” Crean said of Huggins’ zone. “Triangle-and-two he hasn’t done much, but that was more us not getting to our spots. We work on that; we have two or three things we want to do against triangle-and-two at any point, and it took us four or five possessions before we got into that.”

Last updated: 2:10 pm Thursday, December 20, 2012

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