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WLU Takes Ball, Desire From Foes

December 6, 2012
By JIM ELLIOTT, Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

As Jim Crutchfield has turned West Liberty into a Division II basketball power, fans have mostly kept their eyes on the basketball.

How could they not? Since Crutchfield took over, his teams have dropped the ball in the hoop an average of roughly 1.25 times per minute, despite a 35-second shot clock that's in place to speed up possessions but still could cripple a pace like that.

They do it by moving without the ball better than any team you'll see all season. And senior Alex Falk, in particular, does it better than anyone you'll see anywhere.

How else do these slick passes - one right after the other - become easy baskets? Because a nanosecond ago, that guy wasn't there. It's easy to guard a guy who is just standing around. It's virtually impossible to stay with someone like Falk, whose motor never stops.

He's not the only one who does it. They all do.

It's the same on defense. They're in your face all night, baseline to baseline, breath for fading breath, whether you have the ball or not. They don't just break your will, they make you question whether or not you want to play basketball anymore.

Despite appearing in 42 straight NABC Top 25 polls and having won 101 of their last 108 games, they don't beat anyone during the National Anthem. It's usually about the 10-minute mark of the first half when foes begin asking for their mothers.

''That's kind of the goal,'' Crutchfield said. ''We don't want anybody to relax, whether it's full-court or half-court. I think it takes a toll on people both physically and mentally.''

Pinstripe Bowl

Pardon the pun, but it's a New Era of West Virginia football. One Mountaineers fans might well get used to.

With every other Big 12 bowl tie-in outside of the Yankee Stadium Bowl or a BCS bowl being west of the Mississippi, and only one team east of it, it would stand to reason that every shot the Pinstripe Bowl has at the Mountaineers, it's going to take it.

That means all things being equal - and they don't get much more equal than they were in the Big 12 this season with five 7-5 teams -West Virginia might always be facing the fourth-place Big East team in a bowl game. That's assuming the Big East still exists in the coming years.

In other words, the Mountaineers got out of the Big East because the matchups were unwatchable and the payouts weren't what they are at other, more desirable places.

What a cruel and funny world, huh?

Huggins' Extension

With the Winter Meetings going on in baseball and college coaches moving from school to school, you're hearing that people want to sign players/coaches to make them part of their organization for ''life.''

Don't believe it.

Unless, of course, they're deeply rooted in the school where they continually talk about how important their program is to the state and its people, have set up a cancer research endowment fund to benefit people in that state in honor of their late mother, and recently signed an extension that will leave them employed at that organization/school until they're in their 70s.

Yes, I'm talking about West Virginia Men's basketball coach Bob Huggins.

Don't think he's one of the good guys in coaching? Name one other who publicly talks as much as he does about home state and alma mater, then backs everything he says with actions.

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at:

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