SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Remember those unconscious games Casey Mitchell was having early in the season for West Virginia? Well, he had another one Monday night at the Carrier Dome.
Unfortunately, this time it was a direct result of having little help from anyone else. When push came to shove, coach Bob Huggins had no choice but to let Mitchell try to light things up.
That this Mitchell vs. the World thing - or at least Mitchell vs. the Orange - didn't quite work should come as little surprise to anyone.
Mitchell scored 23 points and drained seven 3-pointers, but the Mountaineers turned the ball over too many times, couldn't score inside and were overwhelmed by Syracuse runs in the second half. With Mitchell as the catalyst they answered all but the last run and that left them on the short end of a 63-52 score in front of a crowd of 22,669.
It was the fifth loss in the last nine games for the Mountaineers, who still must play four more ranked teams in their final five games of the regular season.
"It's all about how you handle the pressure,'' West Virginia forward Kevin Jones said. "And we didn't handle it well.''
Handling pressure was certainly an element in this one. West Virginia led at halftime and by six early in the second half, but No. 17 Syracuse put together three solid runs in the second half. The Mountaineers answered two of those runs, but failed to counter the third. The Orange led 51-49 with eight minutes to play when they pounded the ball inside and put the game away with a 10-3 run.
But the real problem was not so much pressure as it was simply making shots.
Mitchell was magnificent. He made seven of 12 3-point tries and had his highest scoring output since a 28-point effort at Georgetown more than a month ago. It was early in the season that the senior shooting guard had consecutive games of 31, 27, 25 and 27 points.
The problem was that the only reason he was pulling the trigger like that was because West Virginia couldn't make the easy shots it was getting.
Working against Syracuse's 2-3 zone, the Mountaineers got the ball inside just like they wanted to do. But from there Kevin Jones was 2-of-8 and Deniz Kilicli was 1-of-7.