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West Virginia struggles in loss to Villanova

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Mitchell's return from suspension not enough in 66-50 loss to Wildcats

Villanova 66, West Virginia 50
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA

Two elbows to the face while playing defense left West Virginia's Truck Bryant dazed and bloodied, but he wasn't the only Mountaineer to leave the Wells Fargo Center feeling like he got KOd. While Kevin Jones and John Flowers scored some blows for the visitors, Villanova easily vanquished WVU 66-50 Saturday afternoon. Maalik Wayns, Corey Fisher, Mouphtaou Yarou and Antonio Pena scored in the double digits for the No. 12 Wildcats (19-4, 7-3) as Bryant struggled with foul trouble and flying elbows and Casey Mitchell was held scoreless in his return from a three-game suspension.

"We just didn't get it done," said WVU coach Bob Huggins.

The Mountaineers (15-7, 6-4) jumped out to a 10-4 lead early on, with Bryant drilling a 3-pointer a little less than five minutes into the game. But Villanova took control with a 17-4 run capped by a Fisher swish from 3-point range. WVU's shooters turned ice cold, going nine minutes, 8 seconds between buckets before Jones ended the miserable stretch with a layup.

No. 25 WVU trailed 30-19 at the midway mark, shooting just 24 percent from the field while registering their lowest first- half point total this season. Flowers outscored the rest of his teammates, 10-9, and Bryant was glued to the bench after two early fouls.

Bryant's trying day got worse early in the second half, as he took an inadvertent elbow from Yarou as the Wildcats' 6-foot-10, 250 pound forward/center rumbled toward the net. Play was stopped as the blood spattered on the court was mopped up. Bryant briefly went into the locker room to get stitched up before returning to the bench.

WVU struck back with a 14-6 run of their own to creep within 36-33 after a Flowers jumper. But the Wildcats responded with a knockout punch. A 28-10 surge, keyed by Wayns and Yarou, gave Villanova its biggest lead of the game.

Wayns scored a game-high 17 points for the Wildcats, making six of his 10 field goal tries. While the explosive sophomore has come off the bench for guard-rich Villanova the past three games, he doesn't mind.

"It's the same mindset, I've got to get a lot better defending and rebounding," Wayns said. "My team needs me to defend and rebound so we can be a good team, then that's what I've got to do."

Fisher added 16 points, Yarou contributed 11 and pulled down six rebounds, and Pena had 10 points while also grabbing six boards. Dominic Cheek nabbed nine rebounds off the bench. The Mountaineers, who entered the day with a +4.5 rebounding margin per game, were outmuscled under the basket by Villanova 28-24.

The Wildcats shot 54.3 percent from the field, including 7-of-14 (50 percent) from beyond the arc. Fisher had three treys, while Stokes and Wayns had two apiece. WVU had held opponents to a Big East-low 27 percent from 3-point range entering the game.

The Mountaineers, by contrast, went 7-of-21 on 3-point shots (33.3 percent) and made 35.8 percent of field goal attempts overall. Jones had 17 points and six rebounds and Flowers scored 15, but they were the only WVU players to reach the double digits.

Dalton Pepper had a trio of threes to finish with nine points. Bryant had four points in just 13 minutes of playing time. Joe Mazzula was held scoreless and had a rough game defensively, though he did have seven assists and five boards.

Mitchell, playing his first game since being suspended for a violation of team rules on January 24, had a goose egg in 13 minutes on the court. WVU's leading scorer went 0-for-3 on the day, including two misses from 3-point range.

"We had more open shots than Villanova did," Huggins said. "We have open shots, we just don't make them. It's kind of frustrating having that many open looks and not make any of them, and I think it hurts our defense. You kind of get your head down a little bit."

Dominic Cheek snatched a pass from Maalik Wayns and slipped past WVU's Joe Mazzula, slicing toward the basket and slamming home a two-handed dunk to even the score at 10 apiece with 12:08 remaining in the first half.

"That will be tough. But we just have to get this one out of our mind and try to get a win."
-- WVU's Kevin Jones on moving past the loss to Villanova and preparing for Monday's home matchup against the Pitt Panthers

FG%: WVU 35.8, VILL 54.3
FT%: WVU 41.7, VILL 64.3
3-PT: WVU 33.3, VILL 50.0
RBS: WVU 24, VILL 28

Scoring: WVU- Jones 16; VILL Wayns 17
Rebounds: WVU- Jones 6; VILL Cheek 9
Assists: WVU- Mazzulla 7; VILL Fisher 5
Blocks: WVU- Flowers 2; VILL Armwood 1
Steals: WVU- Mazzulla, Jones 1; VILL Pena 3

The Mountaineers need to quickly shake off their lopsided loss against the Wildcats, as another predator--No. 4 Pitt--visits the Coliseum Monday at 7pm for the basketball version of the Backyard Brawl. The schedule doesn't have any cream puffs after that, either: the Panthers are one of six currently-ranked opponents left on the docket for WVU. Villanova travels to Piscataway to take on Rutgers Wednesday at 8 p.m.

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