AMES, Iowa — The trajectory of the Mountaineers’ lost night in the American Heartland—falling behind early, playing catch-up in the middle and ultimately stumbling to a not-that-close finish—exemplified their entire season.

From an uninspiring performance in the nonleague schedule, West Virginia swiftly resurrected its NCAA tournament hopes in mid-February. But after Wednesday night’s latest disappointment, a third straight double-digit loss, the Mountaineers are not close.

BOXSCORE: Iowa State 83, West Virginia 66

Iowa State all but squashed WVU’s at-large chances, pulling away for an 83-66 win that was equal parts retaliatory and remarkable. Sure, we anticipated the Cyclones bouncing back from a 25-point beatdown in Morgantown, but who foresaw that happening with Big 12 leading scorer Melvin Ejim sitting out the final 17 minutes?

Ejim, after picking up his third foul while backpedaling against Remi Dibo just 2:47 into the second half, barked at the call and received a technical that saddled him with a fourth foul. Off to the bench he went for good, penance for a mistake his coach Fred Hoiberg described as “out of character.”

Down 46-35, this was, essentially, West Virginia’s window to rally. Yes, Terry Henderson was ill and absent from the lineup, but Ejim unwittingly had equalized the matchup with his gaffe. Opportunity abounded. This could have been WVU’s bail-out.

Instead, the game became a blowout.

Never were WVU’s defensive deficiencies more apparent than when Iowa State made 63 percent of its shots (14-of-22) after Ejim exited. Naz Long, the latest unheralded role player to exploit West Virginia, made three of his five 3-pointers during that stretch and Georges Niang finished off his 24-point night.

“If we could guard teams, we could tough some of these games out,” said point guard Juwan Staten. “You can talk about the arenas we’re playing in, us not making shots, getting out-rebounded, being young … but the main thing is we’re not playing defense.”

Long went 5-of-7 from deep and finished with 15 points—only his second double-digit performance in 35 career Big 12 games.

“You give D-I players wide-open shots and they’re going to start knocking them down,” said Staten, who twice peeled out of the lane and charged at Long too late. “The guys we want to shoot the ball are shooting it, but the problem is when they’re shooting it, they’re wide open.”

MORE: Huggins discusses technical

Much of the Cyclones’ offense was facilitated by freshman point guard Monte Morris—he of the 12 assists and zero turnovers. And there were pivotal plays aplenty from Niang, whose floor-bound moves were astonishingly difficult to defend one-on-one and whose passing skills carved up double-teams.

“We did a horrible job on Niang,” said Bob Huggins. “Niang’s so good because he really can pass the ball. You can’t run and double him because he’s going to find open people. We ran over to help on him a couple times and they made open 3s.”

West Virginia (15-13, 7-8), just two weeks removed from being the topic of Joe Lunardi’s bubble talk, has backslid precipitously. From the “last four in” the NCAAs to perhaps the last four into its own league tourney. At this point, WVU might not be able to stave off Baylor and Oklahoma State for the last of the six first-round byes.

Yet such is the neighborhood where flummoxed, inconsistent teams reside—particularly in the unforgiving Big 12. Scarce electricity remains from the midseason jolt the Mountaineers generated, and they wear the look of a team that belongs closer to the bottom of the standings than the top.


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Comments

  • Shadow

    There is no question in my mind that one of the biggest hurdles WV Basketball has to face is the amount of travel that is required of them to compete in the Big 12. Shooting the basketball requires fine muscle control and that is one of the first thing that goes when you get tired. Last night being a good example. It is a situation that you can not fix.

    • Barry

      If that were true, wouldn't WVU's Women's Basketball Team have that problem too?

      • Common Sense

        The women's team has generally performed far, far better at home in Big 12 matchups than it has on the road in Big 12 matchups. The Men's team to Women's team comparison doesn't prove Shadow's theory, but the comparison does the opposite of undermining it.

        • Barry

          In general, every team plays better at home. I just don't buy that excuse.

          • Shadow

            I was not making an excuse for the team. From what I have seen they are very intense on improving themselves and their record. I was expressing an opinion that travel time takes time out of a busy day and rest time is reduced. Ask yourself, are you better at tasks requiring muscle skills better after exercise/work or before? I have travelled quite a bit in my job and I know that sleep and eating patterns are disturbed and returning home is a relief. Remember, the closest team is 870 miles away and that is 2 hours on any plane. As to the women's team, most men's high school basketball teams play at a faster tempo.

  • ole sasquatch

    Anybody know what Henderson's illness is?
    What we see on our defense is our big guys out from under the basket chasing all the time. They really have no chance to be dominant inside when they are not there. I suggest going to a zone more often. I do think Remi & Adrian are getting better. Watkins really has to hit the weights and learn how to use his body. His coordination is very good but his effort & attitude seem to be lacking. He has a lot of potential. I also suggest we have more plays that involve a lot more of inside passing.
    Ole Sasquatch would like to see Willaims, Watkins, and Noreen in there in a 3 - 2 zone once in a while. Just to see if there would be a chance to develop a power inside game. Problem is - they must stay out of foul trouble.

    • jethrobodine

      mono is what i heard, no contact sports usually for 3 months due to enlarged spleen

      • ole sasquatch

        Thanks Jethro. Sorry to hear about Granny and Uncle Jed. What is Ellie Mae doing these days? You still a Hollywood Producer?

      • squad

        it is mono but im not sure about the 3 mos part

      • hailey

        Then he could still play center on our team...they certianly do not provide any contact

    • Tony

      If you play zone, they will kill you at the three.

  • cutty77

    WVU maybe done for the NCAA's now. You either play your way in or play your way out. The short bench has finally got up with them. But Huggs has done a great job with really about 7 True Basketball players. Our inside can't stop a High School Team.

    • Barry

      "But Huggs has done a great job with really about 7 True Basketball players."

      Seeing how it is Huggins' fault that we have only 9 scholarship player I fail to see how he "has done a great job".

      • Aaron

        Have you considered the failure is in your comprehension?

      • Aaron

        We've discussed this before Barry. Why do you blame Huggins for David Nysurak's entrance exam problems, Darrious Curry's health problems, Pat Forsythe's fathers issues and Tommie McCune's legal problems AFTER he signed his LOI with WVU?

        • he gets the due

          Huggins is responsible for recruiting these illiterates, so he gets the blame when they can't play for academic reasons. A team of half wits with half ability, way to go.

        • Aaron

          Are you going to let these people speak for you Barry?

  • jay zoom

    (bald eagle) it was probably thanking him for keeping Ejim on the bench for the final 17 minutes or it could of been worse. (WVU fan) this team was never close to the big dance as Joe Lunardi had mentioned as long as the mountaineers continue their style of play they will be a cellar dweller in the big 12. THANKS OLLIE

  • Baldeagle

    Anyone know what the post game discussion between the two coaches was all about?

    • Aaron

      He was telling The Mayor that a ton of alledged WV fans like to post on Metro news and how they would take great joy in another WV loss as that is the highlight of their day, week, month and year.

      If I read lips correctly (and I do), Huggs was telling him it got so bad a few years back that some a****** named William was trashing a young female gymnast for slipping on the balance beam, blamed her for losing a match and wanted the coach tarred, feathered and ran out of town for recruiting (and this is Willam's word, not mine or Huggy Bear's) such "low skilled trailer park trash."

      I'm not saying that's the same William that currently post on current WVU stories, I'm simply relating what Huggs said last night.

      Maybe.

      Possibly.

      Or he could have been talking how good the Choclate pancakes are at "The Cafe" in Ames.

      • Aaron

        While I don't want to be accused of throwing anyone under the bus, I'm merely the messenger.

        Personally, as I understand the demons that plague William (or whoever he is today) I feel for him and continually wish nothing but the best for him.

        I know one day he will make it to the top of the steps, burst open the basement doors and free himself from his mother-shackles, confront those demons and break free.

        I can fell it. I just urge the rest of Mountaineer Nation to continue to send out good thoughts for this obviously deeply disturbed young man.

        • aquarius

          aaron..you are an optimist....william is, what william is....i don't foresee breaking any mother shackles because that would require an attention span longer than a gnat...william alas..is doomed to his basement and mommy issues forever...sad..but not unexpected.

        • Maxeer

          rtflmao....

      • squad

        I don't think hugs worries about that.. in fact, I know its hard to believe - but what is posted here makes no difference to anyone much at all.....its not important, your qualifications to post here is an internet connection.. that much is obviuos

      • Barry

        Wow Aaron, that was something.

        Baldeagle, I wondered what was said too.

  • WVU FAN

    This team got us close to the big dance....for that I say thank you. Now let's work on playing better defense as a team for next year... some of these freshmen on our team maybe mentally tired along with fiscally tired , maybe its time to start working to get stronger in the weight room, thanks for a good run... short but sweet!!!!!

    Let's GOOOOOOOOOOO!! Mountaineeeeeeeers!!

    • Aaron

      I'm looking forward to the Big 12 tournament, particularly if they can get Henderson back. I know it's a stretch but that is a couple weeks away so who knows.

  • Baldeagle

    I remember when I first came to Morgantown back in the late seventies and watching Gale Catlett teams and thought that there was a coach stuck back in the 50's style of play, now I'm watching maybe another coach whose time has passed. My question is, if Huggs must go, who do you get to replace him?

  • steve

    Coach Huggs will leave when he wants too Willie-and I'm loving that!

  • Rich

    I never envisioned us as an NCAA team before the year started. But in the last 40+ years of following WVU I'm used to getting teased and having my hopes brought back down to earth. This team has played soooooo much better than last year. Juwan Staten is a legit Big 12 POY, I never saw that coming. Harris and Henderson can be explosive scorers but have to be consistent night in and night out, they haven't been. Williams will get better as will Adrien. Dibo has had some good games and he should improve as well. Noreen and Browne provide depth but not much after that. We simply aren't an NCAA tournament team, we are average defensively and can't finish games. An NIT bid and a run in the NIT would greatly benefit this team going into next year

    • Aaron

      That has been my thoughts pretty much all along. An NCAA berth would have been nice but the reality is, if they had made it, a win on day 1 would have likely been an upset and anything past that was highly unlikely.

      Saying that, I do hope they can right the ship Saturday and then get at least one win in the Big 12 tournament to gain an NIT bid as I believe the extra practice under a Hall of Fame Coach and his staff will do this team a world of good.

      I would also like to see them take a summer tour next year to gain some added practice time that way as well.

  • Phil M.

    Gentlemen it comes down to one thing and that's a poor job of recruitting.

    Why no low post points or defense in the paint, failure to recruit those players.

    Why the drop off from competing in the Big East and not competing in the Big 12, lack of recruitting the right players.

    I've said it before on this website and others and I'll say it again, Huggins can coach as well as Belein but, Belein's the better recruitter.

    • The Real KeatonsCorner

      Bob Huggins' recruiting classes have nearly doubled the amount of star rankings than JB's did........ No, it has not been recruiting..

      But, that's what folks who don't understand basketball like to blame.

      Bob has brought in 3 top 25 recruiting classes in 7 seasons, with the 7th being the current 2014 class that isn't complete yet.

      JB never brought a class in ranked better than 35th.

      Player attrition is the problem with our interior. The key word there ---- PLAYER ---- not recruit.

      Recruiting ends once the LOI is signed. From there, it's development. So if you want to blame player development, fine. You won't hear an argument from me there.

      However, attrition from our big men have been caused by:

      2010 - 7'1 Nyarksuk needed an extra year to qualify in English, being from the Sudan
      6'7 Darrious Curry had a career-ending heart condition

      2011 - 7'0 Pat Forsythe leaves to take care of his BLIND FATHER after mom skips town
      6'8 Tommy McCune transfers after being caught with a stolen credit card and having a prior shop lifting charge on his record AFTER HE COMMITTED to WVU

      There are 4 players who would easily help our interior play right now that left the program due to circumstances not affiliated with recruiting and completely outside of Bob Huggins' control.

    • squad

      a poor job. you think we can get top players to come to Morgantown WV
      you act as if Beliens players were 4 star recruits... youre funny

      he got em at Michigan... never ever got them here..

      he got gansey from st bonaventure when they shut the hoops program down for violations for a couple of years, remember..??

      check out how highly rated those guys were..

      we had a system and recruited to it when he was here.

      lets not get our revisionist brushes out now.
      Belien won with 3 star talent and a saturate with 3 point no rebound get JT gets dunked on 131 system. how do you forget how our team was a bunch of misfits???

  • Bryan

    Hey William, why don't you move to Huntington to be with the rest of the losers like yourself.

  • William

    As long as WVU has "Sweatsuit" Huggins as Head Coach, I hope they lose every game!
    This guy has been a terrible coach for many reasons.
    How bad does it need to get before this bad coach is FIRED?
    And yes,
    I'M LOVIN' IT

    • ernie

      You are not a WVU fan, so why are you here? It wouldn't matter who our coach was to you because you would find something negative to say.

    • Tom

      William, where were you the day after WVU smoked ISU in Morgantown? You weren't on here!

    • aquarius

      rainman...its good to see you're back and doing a wonderful imitation of a jackass.

  • jay zoom

    once again the mountaineers proved along with the fact that Oliver Luck and his greed for the almighty dollar they don't belong in the big 12 today or any other day. At the present time the only post season WVU belongs in (do they have a tournament for a division 7 school that contains the top 65 middle schools WVU could qualify for the play in game. time for Huggins to go ????? he has lost his touch for the game

    • The Real KeatonsCorner

      there's a whole lot of stupid in that post...

  • Aaron

    A play-in game in the tournament gives tha an opportunity to win 1 more game. The question is, will this team take advantage of it?

  • tw eagle

    how about a $1 day Saturday afternoon & fill the coliseum for the Mounties last BEST chance to forge a winning season and garner a bid to the NIT . . .

    the Mounties have been good , they've been bad , and since the K St blowout , they've worked hard as a team & garnered some fleeting respect , especially in the West Virginia area . . . let's wrap up an NIT bid Saturday , then relax and have a lot of fun banging the boards&bodies with the XII elite . . .