Ben Queen/MetroNews photo

A West Virginia fan holds up a sign during Sunday’s 73-70 loss to Purdue.

 

COMMENTARY

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Maybe the line is as fine as Bob Huggins suggests, this gap between West Virginia playing good teams close and actually closing out good teams.

Maybe the difference is as narrow as a possession or two. A single boxout, a lone defensive rotation, a rebound unclutched. Such was the eulogy Sunday afternoon from a 73-70 loss to Purdue.

“One more play,” said West Virginia forward Devin Williams.

Perhaps the distance between a 7-5 record and something approximating an adequate nonconference showing really is microscopic.

But considering how often this WVU storyline has repeated itself this season, maybe the microscope is calibrated incorrectly. These Mountaineers—likable, energetic and functional at their best—are an improvement over last year’s team, but let’s never overlook how low a bar last year’s team set.
Through 12 games, West Virginia NOW should no longer be compared to West Virginia THEN. The only comparables that matter currently are how WVU stacks up against decent teams, and as Sunday showed once again, the Mountaineers don’t measure up.

They’re 7-0 against teams with an RPI of 232 and lower, and 0-5 against teams 131 and higher. There’s a pretty distinct line, if ever one existed. Purdue came to Morgantown as that 131st-rated team, by the way—a preseason pick to finish in the bottom half of the Big Ten, a team that had dropped three of four away from its home arena. And it fielded a roster heavily reliant upon youth, with four freshmen and three sophomores among its top nine minute producers.

Yet once the Boilermakers snatched a two-point lead just before halftime, WVU could never snatch it back. Three times in the second half West Virginia had shots to tie or lead. All three opportunities came on open looks, and all three missed.

• Down 55-52, Terry Henderson launched a 3 from the wing. Not close.
• Down 58-56, Nathan Adrian sized up a straight-on 24-footer. It barely grazed the front rim.
• Down 63-60, Eron Harris took his turn from the wing. Clang.

A fourth opportunity to tie came amid far more duress at game’s end: Harris hurrying into the forecourt with 4.3 seconds left after Terone Johnson’s missed free throw gave WVU a final crack. Harris launched from the left wing, about 25 feet out, only to have Johnson block the shot as time and hope expired.

Based on West Virginia finishing 3-of-18 from 3-point range, you never would have known Huggins had stocked his lineup with perimeter shooters. Henderson went 1-of-6 from deep, Adrian was 0-for-3, and junior college transfer Remi Dibo celebrated his first start at WVU by going 0-of-2 on a scoreless day.

“We’re not going to make them all, but we’ve got to make some,” Huggins said.

Said Henderson, at a loss to explain the contagion of cold shooting: “Everybody has bad days. We had some wide-open looks. We just couldn’t put the ball in the hole.”

Now WVU finds itself in a hole, needing a strong Big 12 run against a league ranked No. 1 in the RPI.
With even a couple wins from the lost bag of Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Gonzaga, Missouri or Purdue, WVU might have been able to go .500 in the league and warrant a look from selection committee. Now West Virginia likely needs an 11-7 conference finish to harbor bubble hopes.

Huggins, having itemized a list of possessions that might have spelled a different outcome against Purdue, leaned on his refrain from recent postgame news conferences: “We really are pretty close.”

One play away, they said. One rebound. One jumper. One defensive stop. Viewed through the narrow lens of Sunday’s loss, it seems WVU is very close. But when the circumstances keep repeating themselves, you have to ask how close are they really?


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Comments

  • madhatter

    recruiting players like holton merely places a rotten apple i nthe basket with you the good,,,
    we found that with kilichi and murray,,,, it's important that huggins finally understands what he's done , and recruiting people like mason who will never make it academically is just a waste of his and our time.

    • wvtd

      I doubt mason or Holton will ever play for wvu. more than likely one will be arrested again and the other will never qualify. get used to it, these are the type of people huggins recruits.

  • Mark

    Here's the deal in my humble opinion. The PLAYERS read this stuff. By all indications they are a good group of young men who truly care about playing together and winning. They are young. They will be much better in the future. Please consider the fragile nature of confidence before you submit some of the more critical and hurtful posts. They are OUR guys. OUR state team. Support them when it's not popular to do so.

    • Rock Solid

      @mark: Poor babies. Maybe they are smart enough not to let their feelings be hurt. Lets give everybody a trophy, win or lose! Sorry, sometimes the truth hurts. Walk the walk, or just shut up and take your medicine. Their feelings are fragile? Tough!

      • jwg66

        Rock - there is a term for you - "TROLL"

        • Rock Solid

          @jwg66: there is a term for you-"LOSER".

      • wvtd

        huggins will fix it some day. give him at least 4 or 5 more years to do it though.

  • Jack

    Huggs needs to stay away from recruits that can't qualify academically. Every team goes through spells of cold shooting, but sometimes the defense is non-existent. When opposing players drive the lane and can get uncontested layups, something needs to change. The announcers on tv stated that WVU basketball was not pretty, but was kind of like watching smash mouth basketball. The team seemed out-of-sync the whole game. They seemed flat-footed when it cane to rebounding. Hopefully, they will do better in conference play.

  • richard

    HARRIS is a ball hog. he needs to pass it when the shot isn't there. he passes up wide open players just so he can shoot. ball hog, ball hog, ball hog!!

  • Incessant BB Watcher

    Dang it, Huggie's right. This team is close. It's not one more play or a couple more players, it's just keeping their heads in the game from start to finish.

    Hey, the rest of you guys can chuck in the towel. I like this group and I'm betting Huggs still wins 17 or 18 with them.

    • MagicMike

      I agree they are close. They will start winning these games at the end of the season. Next year they should have one heck of team.

    • Low Rider

      I love your optimism…but it isn't going to happen this year. Adrian, Dibo, Williams, Watkins and Noreen do not understand low post defense. We may get to 17 or 18 in 2015…but not before.

      • madhatter

        in order to achieve these goals, we need a coach whose reputation doesn't run recruits off, who's parents see in huggie a father figure someone they can trust with their sons... bob has a bad reputation of drinking and it isn't going anywhere
        just ask him why he left ucinn.
        we need another beilein

        • Stan

          I would let my son play for Huggins. I love my son and care about him deeply, and I am his father figure. He doesn't need another one. What he will need if he plays college basketball, is a good coach. Which Huggs clearly is.

        • Rock Solid

          @madhatter: RIGHT ON!

  • Low Rider

    I just looked at our remaining schedule. This team is on their way to another 13-19 season. WVU should beat TCU and Texas Tech, maybe split with Kansas State. Outside of that, wins will be few and far between.

    One stat that jumps out at me. Over the last 78 games…WVU is 1 game over .500. We are a very average basketball program at this point in time.

    • madhatter

      totally agree,,, Luck put us in a situation where it will take a fortune to get out of this, and all these buyouts could have gone to adding to our facilities

    • tw eagle

      you forgot to add the loss at the XII conference play-in game . . . it will give
      WVU a nice round 20 loss season . . .

      WVU is a "little closer" this year . . . instead of losing by 15-20 points , our gunners shoot a little better and the losses will be under 10 points , TILL WVU plays Texas, Oklahoma, OkieSt, and Kansas . . . lines on those games should average 20 points . . .

    • RJ

      Agree! This is a mediocre team.

  • RPP

    It's really hard to continue to be a supporter when our football and basketball programs have become second class.

    • DWM

      One would argue then that you weren't much of a fan to begin with. It was certainly more fun being a fan when our football and basketball teams were in the national conversation, it hasn't changed the fact that I live and die with the team and. I see this as cyclical, I think the basketball team will be better this year and terrific next year and I have hopes that the football team will be better next year. I think we will be back in the national conversation in basketball before we are there in football. There are more pieces in place in basketball and our coach is proven there.

    • justin

      find a new team then.. see ya

    • Stan

      Oh well, please don't jump back on the bandwagon again when they're good again. Fair weather fans we do not need.

    • RJ

      Agree again!!

  • Tim C

    We can't keep recruiting players who can't make the grades...no matter how good they are. Huggs has 2 years into Macon and looks as if it will be 3 before he plays a game. Holton probably won't play this year either because the school he went to doesn't hold a mid-year graduation. Did we not look into that before recruiting him? Noreen can't be taught to block out and rebound evidently. Adrian can't hit the broadside of a barn lately. Dibo needs to help out inside....he's certainly big enough. Watkins and Williams will be fine with time. Browne needs to step up his game. Harris, Staten, and Henderson need to be smarter in their offensive sets. They too often don't space the floor very well at times. This team has talent but their work ethic has to be suspect at this point on the season.

    • tw eagle

      there is some talent . . . it takes a coach to mold these players into a functioning TEAM . . . I haven't noticed ANY progress
      or improvement since the Wisconsin game . . . five guys on the floor , two who hog the ball till they've "gotten theirs" . . . TEAM
      TEAM TEAM . . . someone please
      wake up coach Huggins from his coma and remind him he's not volunteering at the Y , but getting paid a kings ransom to recruit & coach a DIV I basketball program . . . crying about the academically deficient morons you signed says more about your failings than about the ncaa's unwillingness (or mine) to listen to your complaints . . .

  • pghmountaineer

    Wow. A picture tells a thousand words. So sad. The number of discontented fans is growing. Mountaineer nation is becoming disenchanted with our major programs, and all we can do is watch as things continue to disentegrate.

    • madhatter

      we really can't do much about it but hope,,, with the fat contracts Luck handed out, it would take millions and millions to turn this thing about with coaching changes.
      Luck really stuck it to wvu and was hoping to run from this mess to texas, and texas saw thru what he had done to wvu...it's really sad, Luck looked like our savior and instead, he mishandled all our rights and long termed two coaches that are killing our revenue sports...it's sad, it will take years to recover and by that time, the big 12 may just boot us out.

  • Benthere

    Morgantown is a Mecca of excitement these days. Almost Orange Ollie has everyone signed into life time contracts, so double up on your heart meds and hang on!

  • William

    How many players has Huggins played head games with over the years?
    "Sweatsuit" Huggins has been an EMBARRASSMENT to the fans and the State of West Virginia!

    • madhatter

      only marsha has more embarrassments

  • William

    WVU fans tell me why "Sweatsuit" Huggins is a great coach?
    Is it because of any of these things?
    1. He yells & scream at his players all the time.
    2. He yanks his players out of the game for one mistake.
    3. He whines & cries to the refs all game long.
    4. His language he uses on court.
    5. He puts on a show on the court, because he loves the attention.
    6. He recruits some players that have a lot of baggage, and some of these guys should NEVER wear a WVU jersey.
    7. He throw his players under the bus all the time, just listen to his after game radio show.
    8. He has over 700 wins, and 450 are against cupcake terrible teams!
    9. Is it because of what he said to the referee last year that he should have been FIRED for
    10. Is it because he make an OUTRAGOUS salary of $10,000.00 dollars a day, 7 days a week for a part time job!
    11. Is it because of why he did at the Nike Clinic last year at Robert Morris.
    12. Is it because of how many players had to leave the team or he got rid of
    13. Is he a good recruiter

    ITS A VERY SAD TIME TO BE A MOUNTAINEER FAN, NO MATTER WERE YOU MAY BE

    • Capt Obvious

      And to think that we beat the herd by 10 in a year when we couldn't suck more.

    • madhatter

      the saddest time of my life would be if i woke up xmas morning and realized i was a marsha grad and fan,,,they are one sad place,,, fat city i believe

  • Ducks In A Row

    "The fact that there is often such a fine line between winning and losing doesn't seem to affect how we feel about second best. "There's this classic study that looked at athletes in the Olympics. And they did something very, very clever: They just looked to see how happy athletes were when they won. They looked at photographs and had unbiased people coding what the facial expression were."

    They were stunned at what they saw:

    "You'll see the common pattern: The gold medalist is very happy, the bronze medalist is very happy, and the silver medalist often had this sort of blank expression on his or her face -- sort of staring out into the distance."

    Of course, there's no shame in silver . . . unless you can't stop fixating on gold."

    ^^^ I read this, quoting a sports psychologist, a while back and saved it for a just in case need. We can recover. Even if we don't, some of us will stick with you through think and thin. I will, anyway. Let's Go !!!

    • Brian

      Sooooo........ you're saying be happy that we are losing to every team that has a pulse? Or are you saying be happy with losing in general?
      In MY house, coming in second meant you wee the; "first place loser".
      I can DEAL with losing - just don't push your psycho-babble on me and ask me to ACCEPT losing.
      Maybe if more WVU fans, coaches and players felt like losing was UNacceptible we'd be going to a decent bowl AND be think Tourny hopes!!

      • madhatter

        he's saying, accept mediocrity, it ain't so bad, then again, you could be a marsha fan and have absolutely nothing to look forward to but losing to wvu

        • Ducks In A Row

          Right mad. I thought the comment was self explanatory. Thanks for clearing it up.

      • Ducks In A Row

        I am saying that winning never produces permanent satisfaction, because once the victory is attained, the next one is quickly sought after. Someone has to lose every time. It's called competition. Sure, I love winning. If we don't, I will still continue to cheer us on to victory, whenever that comes. I wasn't pushing anything.

  • Big Larry

    They say a picture is worth a 1000 words.

    Did you notice the picture of the fans at the top of this article? Take a good look at it. What a bunch of motionless deadbeats.

    Every person in this picture looks like someone who was bussed in from an old folks home. I mean take a closer look.

    What is up with that? These are the people who actually do pay to watch these games.

    And no, Santa did not deliver a win for the woman holding the sign...What was she thinking?

    If Santa can't produce, I think its time to call in FEMA for disaster relief...

    Big Larry sharing the Love....

    Happy Holidays!

    • madhatter

      i have to agree with much of what you have said,,, i don't think we are that close to being good,,, as you say, our record proves we aren't;
      Yes we can beat worthless teams like marsha , william and mary and those type teams , but when we try to measure up to equal or better teams, we fall flat.
      Now, we're looking at a definite trend, this is the beginning of the fourth yr of declining outcomes.
      Blame it on the CEo, huggins, money bags, beer belly ,but no longer in possession of what it takes to recruit, coach , and field a winner,,, again, let the record speak for itself
      We aren't close, our kids aren't being coached up, and huggins is losing this team just like last yr,,, he is the , i'll fix it guy, well, it ain't getting fixed and we can't play marsha 25 times a yr so we can look good.

    • madhatter

      if they were all obese, i would be sure they are marsha fans dressed in blue and gold.

    • A Different Joe

      What a classless thing to say: "motionless deadbeats.....bussed in from an old folks home". Just what you'd expect to hear from a fair weather fan.

  • SPIKE BISHOP

    Still need a Big inside or two Bigs. With NO POINTS IN THE PAINT, Teams really shadow Harris. If He's not hitting, seems like everyone has a bad day shooting. Huggs says Holton and Macon are still needed, I sure hope he's right!!