With that, the winning streak is over. Dating back to March, UConn had won 9 straight games, with a National Championship thrown in there.
With the way they looked tonight, that seems like a far cry for the Huskies.
West Virginia dominated the basketball game from the very beginning. They jumped ahead with the first points of the game and never relinquished the lead. The game was only tied at one instance, 24 seconds into the game, with the score at 3 a piece.
West Virginia's coach, Bob Huggins, installed a crushing press defense that worked UConn. UConn's guards, Ryan Boatright, Rodney Purvis, Sam Cassell Jr and Terrance Samuel, were completely flummoxed. Inbounding the ball was a difficult task. UConn had 5 players with at least 2 turnovers, and 19 overall. West Virginia turned those 19 turnovers into 17 points. UConn shot 25-45 on 2 point field goals, good for 56%. Had UConn been able to keep their turnovers at their season average, 10.3 coming into the game, this game takes on a different look.
The Mountaineers were led by senior guard Juwan Staten, who had a team high 21 points. Staten was a hounding member of WVU's press who, along with Jonathan Holton and Jaysean Paige, made life very difficult for the UConn guards.
This was an ugly performance from two of UConn's newcomers. Rodney Purvis and Daniel Hamilton, who have both been very impressive in the tournament, struggled throughout the night. Purvis looked to tweak his ankle early in the game, after landing awkwardly off a missed dunk attempt. He was in and out of the locker room throughout the first half. He finished with 0 points, 0 rebounds and 0 assists in his 21 minutes. Although Hamilton had a few highlight worthy plays, his 8 turnovers were killer. Most of those were a result of attempting to pass while in the air, which is a no-no. Hamilton is tremendously talented, but his youth was apparent today. Need to clean up those mistakes to really be a great player.
This was a bad game for the Huskies and revealed quite a few weaknesses. Teams with the athletic ability to do so will press this team going forward. Most would have thought that UConn's veteran guards could handle it, but they looked lost.
Also, West Virginia got chippy and physical today, particularly Devin Williams. The Mountaineers attitude dictated the game. Between their energy and some bad calls from officials, the Huskies lost their composure. Boatright could have picked up a technical at several points in the game due to his trash talking and general attitude.
Going forward, UConn has to learn to play through adversity and be able to stand their ground against a team trying to push them around.
UConn has a big test coming next week against #10 Texas. Good news, it's at home at Gampel Pavilion and Texas' Isiah Taylor will be out. Bad news: if they play like this, they're going to get blown out of the gym.