Page 2 of 2 -- "It's a great feeling to come in here, play against a good team, and prove that we're a good team," said Pittsnogle. "We had some troubles, like we said yesterday, that kept us up. But we were having a lot of fun."
After feeling slighted by league officials -- who presented co-regular-season champion Connecticut with a trophy following its 88-70 romp over Syracuse last Saturday at Storrs, Conn., but failed to do the same for the Eagles after they wrapped up a share of the title and clinched the top seed with its 78-66 win at Rutgers later that night in Piscataway, N.J. -- BC arrived intent on addressing those perceived wrongs on the court by winning the tourney, cutting down the nets, and parading the Big East championship trophy around the Garden floor.
Problem was, the Mountaineers ruined BC's planned Garden Party by raining a barrage of 3-pointers upon the Eagles en route to a whopping 22-point halftime lead. By then it was evident to BC coach Al Skinner, who earlier in the week was named Big East Coach of the Year for the second time in his eight years at The Heights, the only thing the Eagles had left to play for was pride.
"There was no way that you can walk in and say, `Hey, we're going to win this ballgame,' " said Skinner, whose team allowed the Mountaineers to connect on 65 percent of its field goals (17 of 26) and 73 percent of its 3-pointers (8 of 11) in the first half. "All you're doing is playing for pride, because you've just embarrassed yourself for 20 minutes."
Asked if he yelled at his team in the locker room during intermission, Skinner said, "A little bit." That was a startling revelation for a coach who hardly engages in such halftime hysterics. "Not usually," Skinner said, "but, again, the thing I was most upset at was effort, and I thought we were lacking that."
With no alternative except to fight or fold, the Eagles chose to fight by stepping up their defensive intensity in the form of a full-court press and trap, limiting the Mountaineers to 5-for-14 shooting while forcing them to commit 10 of their 16 turnovers in the second half.
After Gansey increased West Virginia's lead to 25, 47-22, by opening the second half with a foul-inducing transition basket, Sean Marshall (15 points on 6-for-14 shooting) hit a 3-pointer that pulled BC within 13, 52-39, with 12:26 to go. Jared Dudley (17 points, 7 rebounds, 4 fouls) cut West Virginia's lead to single digits, 58-49, with his foul-inducing putback with 7:11 left.
Marshall then got BC within 4, 62-58, when he drilled yet another trey with 4:42 to go. But it was as close as the Eagles got as Pittsnogle converted a couple of backbreaking baskets that gave the Mountaineers all the cushion they would need.
"Now we're at a point in the season where it's one and done, and guys have to get themselves prepared to play," Skinner said. "As soon as the whistle goes up, we have to be ready to play."