No. 8 West Virginia 75, Seton Hall 63

West Virginia needed a flurry of free throws to overcome another

late meltdown against Seton Hall.

No. 8 West Virginia went the final 9 minutes of the game without

a field goal and the banged-up Pirates nearly wiped out a 19-point

deficit before the Mountaineers recovered for a 75-63 victory

Saturday.

West Virginia’s final 15 points came from the free throw line.

The Mountaineers (21-5, 10-4 Big East) shot 32 percent (8 of 25)

from the field after halftime and had their 14th straight game

under 50 percent shooting.

Instead of praising his players for pulling out a victory, West

Virginia coach Bob Huggins chided them for falling into lapses and

not putting the game away sooner – something that’s happened often

this season.

“It just continues to rear its ugly head,” Huggins said.

Kevin Jones, who along with Devin Ebanks led West Virginia with

16 points, agreed the team needs to keep a constant rhythm

going.

One lapse occurred earlier this month at Pittsburgh, when West

Virginia led 68-63 with 36 seconds remaining in regulation but lost

in triple overtime.

It also happened on Dec. 26, when West Virginia blew a 10-point

lead to Seton Hall with less than a minute to play in regulation

before winning 90-84 in overtime.

“Sometimes when we get up big, we get too lackadaisical and

just stop doing what got us the lead, so we need to work on that,”

Jones said. “We weren’t getting the shots that we were getting in

the first half because we weren’t finding the seams or the open

spots that we usually do.”

Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez was looking for any edge he

could get against the Mountaineers with a shortened bench. In his

best Huggins imitation, Gonzalez wore a blue polo jacket.

Seton Hall had trimmed the big deficit to 63-60 with 3 minutes

left. But with starting point guard Eugene Harvey missing his

second straight game with a bruised right wrist and Jeremy Hazell,

the Big East’s second-leading scorer at 21.9 per game, rendered

ineffective by a deep cut on his shooting hand, the Pirates ran out

of gas.

“I’m going to retire the polo jacket,” Gonzalez said. “It

didn’t bring me much luck. I tried to steal Coach Huggins’ mojo but

it didn’t work.”

Hazell had scored a career-high 41 points in the earlier game

against West Virginia. Playing with eight stitches from the cut

sustained on Wednesday against St. John’s, Hazell scored just nine

points Saturday on 2-of-10 shooting in 33 minutes and no one else

was able to step up for the Pirates until the second half.

It marked just the fourth time this season that Hazell didn’t

reach double figures in scoring.

“You take away 22 points a game, he’s a large percentage of our

offense,” Seton Hall center Herb Pope said. “It’s a lot

different. Guys have to come in and play unfamiliar roles.

Different players have to step up and take Jeremy’s shots and try

to win the game.”

West Virginia’s deep lineup appeared to have things well in

control. Six players scored over the first 8 minutes of the second

half, and Da’Sean Butler, the team’s leading scorer, wasn’t among

them.

Wellington Smith’s baseline jumper gave the Mountaineers their

largest lead, 47-28, with 16:18 remaining.

Gonzalez credited his defense for keeping West Virginia off

balance after that and the Pirates effectively drove the ball

inside to draw fouls. Jeff Robinson, who led Seton Hall with 16

points, scored six during a 14-0 run that made it a one-possession

game with 3 minutes left.

But Seton Hall suddenly went cold, the Pirates sent West

Virginia to the free-throw line eight times after that and the

Mountaineers made them pay.

Ebanks made five free throws down the stretch and West Virginia

went 12 of 18 in the final minutes. The Mountaineers outscored

Seton Hall 27-12 from the line for the game.

Still, it was the poor field goal percentage that stuck with

Huggins.

“We shot the ball really well for the past two days and then we

come out and shoot (38) percent,” Huggins said. “There isn’t

another team in the country that could shoot (38) percent against

those guys and win by 12.”

Butler added 14 points for the Mountaineers.

Seton Hall, coming off its only Big East road win at St. John’s

on Wednesday, was outrebounded 41-36. Pope, the Big East’s leading

rebounder at 11 per game, had 10 but no one else on the Pirates had

more than five.

“I thought our kids came back and showed incredible heart,

courage and toughness to get back into the game,” Gonzalez said.

“West Virginia responded and made their free throws down the

stretch.”