MORGANTOWN -- When a reporter asked West Virginia basketball coach John Beilein if losing leading scorer Drew Schifino set back his program a year, the second-year coach thought for a second and then replied, "I really can't answer that at this point."
While the impact of Schifino's departure might not be of that magnitude, it was evident during Wednesday's 69-67 loss to Big East weakling Virginia Tech that the Mountaineers are lost without him come crunch time.
West Virginia scored just three baskets in the final 8:00 of play and couldn't protect a seven-point lead during that time period. Worse yet, no one appeared to even think about stepping up except 5-foot-10 point guard Jarmon Durisseau-Collins, who scored WVU's final basket to tie the game at 67-67 and then missed another that would have sent it to overtime as time ran out.
"We are still searching for what we need to do and who we need to go to in crucial areas of the game," Beilein said. "I don't doubt our enthusiasm for one second, but we are still searching for the right chemistry."
Durisseau-Collins, who has improved his shooting significantly from last season, was an unlikely option. So was true freshman Jerrah Young, whose layup with 1:28 to play pulled WVU to within two at 67-65.
"Jerrah is getting there," Beilein said. "I'd really like to play him more, but in these nip-and-tuck games, it's tough because the freshmen don't always know where to go and what to do.
"There are some games left on our schedule where we will be overmatched, and you'll likely see more of them in those games."
Sophomore guard Johannes Herber, the player closest to Schifino in the ability to create his own shot at this point, tried on the game's final sequence. But he was cut off by two Tech players along the right baseline and was forced to find an open man, which happened to be Collins.
"I've seen Jarmon drill that shot hundreds of times in practice," Herber said. "He had a good look and got it in the rim. But it just wouldn't go down for us."
Herber believes Young could become more of a creative force offensively as the season goes along.
"He impressed me tonight," Herber said. "He's got a lot of natural athletic ability, it's just a matter of it all coming together for him."
Young scored six points and grabbed three rebounds in 14 minutes of playing time.
n NOTES: Bryan Randall, Tech's starting quarterback, saw five minutes of action. He joined the team prior to the Pitt game 10 days ago.
n Kevin Pittsnogle, the team's second leading scorer last season and currently the second leading scorer this year, played just one minute in the second half.
n Patrick Beilein would have broken a school record for consecutive free throws had officials let stand his two after an intentional foul was called against Tech's Philip McCandies. Beilein hit both free throws, but it turned out that Herber was the player fouled. Tech coach Seth Greenberg informed the officials of this and they removed the points from the scoreboard. Herber then hit both free throws, but a few minutes later, Beilein missed the front end of a one-and-one, leaving him tied with Stan Boskovich at 32-straight made free throws.
n West Virginia's road game at Providence Saturday night will be telecast live on Fox Sports Pittsburgh (Channel 48 on local cable).
Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org