Foul Result For WVU in Sweet 16
BOSTON — It wasn’t 35-2, but the spate of fouls, and the change in the style of officiating, loomed right alongside Villanova’s hot shooting from 3-point range as the primary reasons the Mountaineers are now out of the 2018 NCAA Tournament. A good deal of credit has to be given to the Wildcats, who made 13 of their 24 three point attempts, but some of the space created for those shots came as a result of a West Virginia defense that had to play more conservatively after a huge run of fouls to open the second half.
WVU was called for the first six fouls of the half, including three on Daxter Miles over the space of just 2:26. The last of those sent him to the bench with four at the 15:36 mark, removing him from the game for more than ten minutes of clock time.
The carnage continued on the court, as Ron Groover, Mike Roberts and Joe Lindsay continually halted play for contact that was less than half as severe as that which occurred in the opening rounds in San Diego. The Mountaineers accumulated four more to put the Cats in the double bonus with 10:58 to play, while getting just two calls on Villanova. That clearly pleased head coach Jay Wright, who lobbied the officials during every timeout with complaints that West Virginia was fouling on every possession. The gap reached 12 fouls to two before another call came against Nova at the 8:50 mark, and WVU didn’t get into the single bonus until just 6:11 remained.
“It was the foul situation in the second half,” assistant coach Ron Everhart said of one of the turning points of the game. “We played 11 minutes into the half and it was a 10-2 deficit before they picked up their third team foul. That played a big part of it. We couln’t be in a situation where the fouls gave them two shots every time.
“When guys have to play a little bit off that takes away the aggressiveness we have played with all year. We guarded the ball more softly than we normally would or than we felt like we could against those guys.”
One of West Virginia’s plans coming in was to crowd Villanova on the perimeter, as the feeling was that they had not faced such tactics this year. It worked in the first half, when the fouls were 11-10, and the game left to play itself out. In the second, every touch was called, ad although the Mountaineers were able to stay competitive, and even build a five-point lead, trouble was clearly brewing. With Miles out, WVU had no other distance threat, finishing 7-28 from the field. Meanwhile, the Cats, benefiting from a defense that had to back off a bit, made 13 of 24, and shot 50% from the field overall.
“Ultimately we didn’t guard the ball well enough in the open floor, and we gave them some looks,” Everhart summarized.
That shooting, though, was a bugaboo all year. In the second half, even with the foul disparity, West Virginia had a chance to keep pace, as it did in the first. The Mountaineers got 70 shots away in the game, but made just 27.
“We missed some open shots,” Everhart understated. “Every shot we missed seemed like it got them into transition. They are a good passing team, and we knew that, and we didn’t get back well enough. We did a good job of that in the first 30 minutes of the game.
“We left a few lay-ups and easy ones off the front of the rim. They made us pay for them with threes. We dropped a free throw out of bounds and gave them a four-point play, and they went on an 11-0 run. I thought we got a little bit impatient on offense and that hurt us. That was the difference in the game.”
Jevon Carter had a pair of early fouls in the game, and coupled with Miles’ absence for ten minutes of the second, the Mountaineers usual defensive fury was tamped down.
“Sure, it absolutely did [make a difference],” head coach Bob Huggins said in reference to the foul trouble affecting the way his team played.. I’m trying to say the right things. Yeah, it does. When the whistle keeps blowing, it really takes away your aggression, you know. And then J.C. had three, Dax had four. They’re the heart and soul of this team. They’re the guys that everybody looks to. They’re the guys that who make things happen.”