INDIANAPOLIS - West Virginia won games this season with defense. Saturday night, the Mountaineers lost their last game because they didn't play it.
Well, at least not like they can.
Not since a bad loss at home to Villanova on Feb. 8 had a team made more than half its shots against the Mountaineers. In seven of the previous eight games, opponents couldn't even reach 40 percent. It wasn't blind luck. It was because the Mountaineers didn't let teams shoot the ball.
They let Duke shoot. And they paid.
"They got us out of character. We usually are not like that on defense,'' Devin Ebanks said. "But we allowed a lot of penetration to the middle. They were able to convert and hit open jump shots, scoring the ball, laying it up. They had a great day and they were probably the better team.''
Yes, Duke was the better team in a 78-57 win Saturday night that ended West Virginia's season one game short of playing for the national championship. And it was because the Mountaineers let them be the better team.
Duke is pretty average if it doesn't shoot the ball well. The Blue Devils do rebound it well and play some defense. But shooting remains their strong point.
West Virginia allowed Duke to shoot better than 50 percent on shots from both inside and outside the 3-point line. And those numbers weren't fabricated by a hot streak here or there. The Blue Devils were over 50 percent on every kind of shot in both halves.
And nothing West Virginia did could stop them. Coach Bob Huggins tried the 1-3-1 zone that has usually been his team's bail-out defense, but it was shredded.
And Huggins took the blame for it.