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Schifino's not only a scoring threat for Mountaineers

by Greg Talkington

SPORTS WRITER

MORGANTOWN -- The word around the Big East is stop, or at least slow down Drew Schifino, and a win over West Virginia is pretty likely.

But as Rutgers found out Sunday afternoon at the Coliseum, that's quite a tough task.

Schifino shot over, drove through and passed around Rutgers' much-heralded defense for 32 points and five assists in WVU's easier-than-expected 86-75 victory over the Scarlet Knights.

The 6-foot-3 sophomore didn't find much opposition.

"I don't think they respected us coming in and when we jumped on them, they really got frustrated and down," Schifino said. "After I hit a couple of 3s, they started jumping out on me, and then it was pretty easy to get to the basket."

Of course, when the Rutgers' defense finally started collapsing on Schifino, he found sharp-shooting freshman teammate Kevin Pittsnogle ready and willing to knock down mid-range jumpers.

The 6-10, 220-pound Pittsnogle poured in a career-high 26 points, making his man pay every time he left to help on Schifino.

"If they're going give help on Drew, all I have to do is step out," Pittsnogle said. "That's a shot I practice all the time and it's wide-open."

Mountaineer coach John Beilein praised the duo for their ability to recognize and read the defense, which is paramount in his offensive system.

He also said both do something not common today.

"Kevin and Drew both have great medium-range games," Beilein said. "And that's something most players don't have in the game today.

"They can both shoot the medium range jumper."

Rutgers coach Gary Waters was duly impressed.

"I think Pittsnogle is going to be a great player here," Waters said. "And Schifino is a great player for this system. He has a great knowledge of what they want to do offensively."

Pittsnogle, who started the game by tapping in a basket for Rutgers and dropping a pass, came back strong and showed some seldom-seen flair later in the first half.

First, he threw in a one-handed shot backwards over his head. Later, he led a fast break and capped it with a behind-the-back pass to Schifino for a layup.

"It kind of surprised me," Schifino said. "But he just had a super game out there tonight.

"I think it was his best overall game of the season."

"Kevin has many things in his repertoire and there are a few that we'd like to see kept in the closet for another year or two," Beilein added, with a smile. "He can do so much that sometimes it tends to get him in trouble."

Pittsnogle, Schifino and their teammates may need a little more in their repertoires Wednesday, as the Mountaineers (11-6, 2-3 Big East) face 16th-ranked Notre Dame (16-3, 4-1) in South Bend, Ind.

Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at gtalkington@exponent-telegram.com