West Virginia once again has the good fortune of facing last-place DePaul as it tries to bounce back after consecutive losses.
On Saturday, the 25th-ranked Mountaineers will try to avoid their first three-game losing streak in nearly five years when they host the Blue Demons, who now look to snap a Big East skid that's reached 24 games.Following a 66-50 loss to then-No. 12 Villanova last Saturday, West Virginia (15-8, 6-5) fell for the fourth time in seven games with a 71-66 defeat to No. 4 Pittsburgh on Monday.It's the second set of back-to-back losses this season for the Mountaineers, who haven't lost three in a row since Feb. 14-20, 2006. West Virginia dropped consecutive games to St. John's and Marquette before defeating the Blue Demons 67-65 on Jan. 4.Poor shooting has plagued West Virginia recently. The Mountaineers have averaged 58 points on 38.2-percent shooting over the last six games.Getting senior guard Casey Mitchell going would help. West Virginia's leading scorer (15.3 points per game) came off the bench against Pittsburgh and scored seven on 2-of-10 shooting. It was the second game for Mitchell after he was reinstated from an indefinite suspension that lasted three games.A win Saturday is especially important for West Virginia as it prepares for a brutal stretch to close the regular season. Five of its final six games after DePaul will come against teams currently in the top 25.Still, coach Bob Huggins said it isn't time to panic."We've got the fourth-best schedule in the country," Huggins said. "We're 18 in the RPI or somewhere in there. We're fine. We've just got to win some games."Although the Blue Demons (6-17, 0-11) haven't beaten a conference opponent since a 51-50 victory over Marquette on Jan. 20, 2010, the Mountaineers are unlikely to overlook them after DePaul nearly overcame a 14-point second-half deficit last month."I don't know what a trap game is," Huggins said. "It's a Big East game. ... If we don't understand that then we don't have any hope. We need to win games and I think they're aware of that."The Blue Demons continue to come agonizingly close to ending their conference losing streak. After a 61-57 loss at then-No. 15 Louisville last Saturday, they fell 71-68 to Cincinnati on Tuesday.DePaul rallied from 17 points down, but after Cincinnati threw away the inbounds pass, Jimmy Drew's shot at the buzzer rolled off the rim."It's definitely tough when you lose by four and three points in games you think you should have won," Drew said. "But you can also look on this as a positive and something to build on."Cleveland Melvin finished with a game-high 20 points and six rebounds, the seventh time this season the freshman scored at least 20. Melvin scored a team-high 17 against West Virginia in January.DePaul, which has lost 24 consecutive conference road games since a 60-54 win at Cincinnati on March 6, 2008, has lost both visits to West Virginia and all five meetings since joining the Big East.