MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Bob Huggins wanted to keep Emmitt Matthews Jr. on Syracuse’s sharp-shooter Buddy Boeheim.
Somehow, West Virginia’s players didn’t get that message Sunday.
“We switched, and we shouldn’t have switched,” Huggins said after WVUfell to the Orange, 75-72, in the second round of the NCAA tournament at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. “I mean, plain and simple. We wanted size on Buddy, and we switched size off of him, and he shot it over the top of us and made three threes.”
A 3-pointer from the corner from Taz Sherman tied the game at 56 with 7:16 remaining.
But, then came the defensive miscues from the Mountaineers (19-10).
Boeheim hit a pull-up jumper from the foul line and then added a 3-pointer that ave Syracuse a 63-59 lead.
Earlier in the second half, once WVU had cut it the deficit to 46-44, Boeheim hit two more 3-pointers to stretch the lead back out to 52-44.
Boeheim finished with 25 points — 22 in the second half — and was 6 of 13 from behind the arc.
“It was huge for me. Just credit to my teammates,” Boeheim said. “They knew that I needed to get some clean looks early in the second half to get going, and they did a great job. My first two shots were wide open, and that’s all credit to Marek (Dolezaj) giving me a hand-off and finding me in the corner. They knew eventually I was going to start making shots.”
Why did WVU players not stick to Huggins’ game plan?
“Yeah, that’s just what it comes down to, communication,” WVU guard Sean McNeil said. “We went to our point drop, had a match-up look, where we do kind of try to pass things off and switch here and there. So, I think that it was just a lapse in communication and not knowing what was going on.”
It took WVU four minutes just to get its first two points of the game, and by the time the game was six minutes old, the Mountaineers had just eight points.
Syracuse upped it’s lead to 28-14 with just under six minutes left, as the Mountaineers missed 18 of their first 24 shots of the game.
“Syracuse’s zone, I think, bothered us a little more than we expected,” said McNeil, who finished with 23 points on 8 of 15 shooting. “We kind of struggled in the first half, didn’t get a lot of good looks. We turned the ball over, things like that, and it ended up hurting us.”
Huggins said WVU was getting the ball to the right places early against the Orange’s 2-3 zone, but just couldn’t get the shots to fall.
“I think we ran what we needed to run,” Huggins said. “We just didn’t score it. How many shots inside of three, four feet did we miss to start the game?
“They had a lot to do with that, but I mean, you catch it and going at the basket from three or four feet, we’ve got to make one. We didn’t make any.”
News and notes
** Syracuse hit 14 of 31 from behind the arc, the second-most 3-pointers WVU gave up in a single game this season.
The Orange are a combined 29 of 58 (50%) from 3-point range in their first two NCAA tournament games.
** After scoring 30 points in the first round against Morehead State, Deuce McBride was held to 11 on 4 of 10 shooting against Syracuse.
** WVU out-rebounded Syracuse, 41-29, and Gabe Osabuohien and Jalen Bridges each finished with nine boards for the Mountaineers.
** Dating back to the old Big East days, West Virginia has now lost six straight against Syracuse.