After a pair of tough games last week, West Virginia figures to have a much easier time against its next two Big East opponents. Providence's schedule, meanwhile, doesn't seem to be letting up.
The eighth-ranked Mountaineers look to avoid losing three straight for the first time in four years Wednesday night when they visit the struggling Friars, who are trying to snap a five-game skid.West Virginia (19-5, 8-4) is coming off a brutal week in which it lost to two of the top teams in the conference, falling 82-75 at home to Villanova on Feb. 8 and 98-95 in triple-overtime at Pittsburgh on Friday.After playing three of their last four games against ranked opponents, the Mountaineers will face two teams with losing records in Big East play this week. Following Wednesday's game against Providence, which West Virginia has won five straight against, the Mountaineers host Seton Hall on Saturday.The Mountaineers haven't lost three straight since Feb. 14-20, 2006, and they are especially looking to improve at the free throw line. West Virginia was 18 of 32 against Villanova and went 26 for 37 versus Pitt, missing three times in the final minute of regulation."We went to the line and missed free throws and fumbled around. You have to give Pitt credit," coach Bob Huggins said. "They didn't fold, but they had a lot of help from us."West Virginia led by five with 35 seconds left in regulation before the Panthers came back to tie it. The Mountaineers made a comeback of their own in the first overtime, with Darryl Bryant hitting a tying 3-pointer with a second left.Da'Sean Butler scored 32 points and Bryant finished with 20. The two missed three free throws in the final minute of regulation and Bryant had a turnover with 30 seconds left that led to Pittsburgh tying the game.Butler has scored 25 or more in three of his last five games.Providence (12-13, 4-9) is facing its third straight top 10 team and is coming off a 92-81 loss at Villanova on Saturday. The Friars stayed with the Wildcats until early in the second half, when Villanova pulled away after Sharaud Curry received a personal and technical foul that sent the Wildcats to the line for four shots."The explanation I got for the technical foul was, he said. 'Where's the foul?'" coach Keno Davis said. "He put his arms somewhat up. It's about as demonstrative as Curry has ever been and that's not very demonstrative."Curry finished with 19 points and Vincent Council scored a team-high 21. Providence hasn't lost six straight since a seven-game skid Jan. 8-31, 2005, and its next game isn't any easier as it hosts No. 5 Syracuse next Tuesday."I try not to think about it very much," Davis said. "After our last game, I actually had to ask to see who we had next."Providence's last win over West Virginia was 63-61 in 2007. Of the five losses since, four have been by double digits.