SYRACUSE, N.Y. - There were plenty of reasons West Virginia wound up losing 63-52 to No. 17 Syracuse Monday night at the Carrier Dome. For many of those reasons, Syracuse deserves some of the credit for making things difficult for the Mountaineers.
But all in all, the blame for this loss falls squarely on the Mountaineers.
West Virginia attacked Syracuse's zone just the way it wanted to, but couldn't make the shots it got.
The Mountaineers turned the ball over 16 times against a fairly passive zone.
And, worst of all, WVU got lazy on defense.
"We've got to get back to playing defense the way we were,'' said forward John Flowers. "We had our problems on offense and I think we got comfortable after the first half, but the thing we can't do is slack off on defense.''
Indeed, while West Virginia had plenty of offensive problems Monday night (Casey Mitchell and Flowers shot a combined 12-of-21 and everyone else was 5-of-26), the Mountaineers still might have survived. They have, after all, made a living off of defense and rebounding the last month of the season.
But in this one, some of the Syracuse numbers were downright embarrassing. The worst was fast-break points. The Orange had 19. West Virginia had none.
In other words, in the half court the Mountaineers handled Syracuse effectively, save for a couple of sneak-along-the-baseline dunks that drew the ire of coach Bob Huggins. But those fast-break points - especially ones off the 16 West Virginia turnovers - were huge.
"I'm surprised we turned the ball over as much as we did, seeing that they sit back there in that 2-3 zone,'' Flowers said.
Indeed, it was not easy to figure out.
The problem, though, was that in trying to navigate through or around that zone the Mountaineers got lazy at times. On consecutive possessions in the second half, Cam Thoroughman had two passes that he was trying to lob over the defense picked off. Mitchell had five turnovers himself.
"And if we turn the ball over 16 times, we're not going to win,'' Huggins said. "You don't expect Cam to throw it like that twice, especially considering that he was allegedly a guard in high school.''