NORMAN, Okla. — In a moment of self-consoling, Bob Huggins muttered “help is on the way,” wishfully speculating about the potential that next season’s roster holds.

This year’s team, however, has reached its ceiling.

In the aftermath of a 72-62 loss at No. 23 Oklahoma, Huggins knew this was the case. Maybe he had known it ever since Terry Henderson’s fever popped up two weeks ago, but for sure the realization hit home Wednesday night when the Sooners skirted away during a seven-minute stretch of the second half.

BOXSCORE: Oklahoma 72, West Virginia 62

From a 43-40 lead that seemed too good to be true, West Virginia lost all form and function. As Oklahoma put together a 25-9 run based on 8-of-11 shooting, Huggins hard no answer.

His best player, Juwan Staten, finally showed the wear from a season’s worth of daring drives and mega-minutes. His best shooter, Eron Harris, had more travels than baskets. His No. 3 scoring option, Henderson, was unavailable for a fourth consecutive game.

“The hardest thing is how to stop the bleeding,” Huggins said. “When they start to make a run, who do you throw the ball to? How do you create a mismatch?”

WVU tried to isolate Nate Adrian, figuring the 6-9 shooter might have a matchup edge. Tried tossing it inside to Devin Williams, figuring OU’s lack of height left it vulnerable. Tried freeing up Harris because, after all, he had burn the Sooners before. But the offense and the confidence were lacking once Oklahoma regained the lead, leaving WVU to rely too much on its pooped point guard.

“We can’t just say, ‘Wannie, drive it to the basket’ every time,” Huggins said.

For long portions Wednesday, Staten was darn near an every-time option. At the half he had made 8-of-15 shots, while his teammates were a combined 5-of-20. Staten closed the night with 24 points on 11-of-23 makes, seemingly all of them high-stress attempts against a village of defenders.

After bursting downcourt for a basket at the 8:28 mark, Staten was spent. He kept pace with his man on the defensive end only to watch Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield shake free for an uncontested 3. (That was one of four 3s Hield made to trigger OU’s surge.) Back on the offensive half, Staten didn’t have it in him to orchestrate the next possession, so twice he motioned for a teammate to come take the ball.

Which Harris did.

And then promptly traveled.

While Staten was out of energy, Harris was simply out of sorts. In trying to push WVU toward an upset, the 18-points-per-game scorer waded into traffic and created more mishaps than opportunities.

“You just tell him to calm down and play basketball,” Staten said. “When you play with a lot on your mind, it weighs on you and it takes away from the things you do good. That’s something we have to keep talking to him about.”

After making 27-of-31 free throws in his previous four games, Harris left Lloyd Noble without going to the line even once. Huggins suggested his sophomore lacked the strength to adjust once officials allowed the defense to turn physical.

“Eron got to the free-throw line so much more before because freedom-of-movement (the officials) really did enforce,” Huggins said. “They didn’t enforce freedom-of-movement today.

“(Oklahoma) grabbed us, chucked us, did whatever—and if you can get away with it, do it.”

It would’ve made Huggins feel better had his defenders actually closed within grabbing distance of Hield on his flurry of 3-pointers. Or for that matter Cameron Clark, whose 19 points were his highest output in nearly two months.

The coach leveled his customary postgame refrain about players getting lost on defense, and sometimes not getting back at all. But after a loss that assuredly pushes an NCAA at-large bid out of sight, Huggins admitted, “We just don’t have enough guys, to be honest with you.”

Even should WVU chop down Kansas in Saturday’s sold-out home finale, it would mostly serve to cement an NIT berth. Anything grander would require a perfect run through the Big 12 tourney, against a glut of teams equally as dangerous, if not more so, than Oklahoma.

“I think we’ll have people that will be able to stop the bleeding a year from now,” said Huggins, pining for the debuts of ineligible forwards Elijah Macon and Jonathan Holton.

“But that doesn’t do us any good now.”


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Comments

  • RJ

    What do all expect from a mediocre basketball team. Maybe we can get lucky and receive an NIT bid.....hopefully. Maybe next year! Maybe! When does football season start. HA!

  • bball fan

    WVU can not play man to man maybe you go back to the zone to stop the bleeding. It was way to easy for Oklahoma during that stretch 8-11 shooting wide open shots and lay ups. WVU stayed in this game to that point bc of defense(zone) and rebounding. Offense was bad it took Staten 23 shots to get 24 points and I know Williams had a double double but his post game is horrendous, Dibo couldn't throw it in the ocean. The zone kept them in it and the man put them out of it.
    WVU overachieved doing their winning streak getting our hopes up for a NCAA bid but reality is WVU is not a very good bball team. And what did Coach Huggins mean that this was the most success Harris has enjoyed during his bball career?

  • WVManiac

    Allan,

    I don't understand this headline.... How has this team reached it ceiling? I would agree if Henderson (a starter) was playing that last few games and they lost. This team isn't close to hit it's "ceiling"

    • mad hatter

      well, dibo has maxed out... adrian has not grown,mentally,,,, williams is crediable,meaning,, 8 double doubles for a freshman isn't bad...it'd be nice if noreen, watkins, adrian, could find it in themselves , to REBOUND/.
      staten is the shinning star,, harris has his moments, last night wasn't one of them,, Henderson is about peaked..

    • squad

      the same reason they lead of with the below 500 headline..it sounds the worst. journalism is picking words who want to use. people can clearly see where you're coming from with the words chosen. hey if you predicted wed go below 500 you'd be grabbing at these also.

  • cutty77

    Huggs got ever ounce of play from this team. You can't make chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what. You can't win in any league with 6 or 7 true Basketball players. Half of this roster is Y-League players. Great job Huggs. But in True Mountaineer Style, they may upset The Jay-Hawks at home Sat.

    • OKANYDAY

      Well, cutty77 didn't Huggins recruit all these kids on the team ?

      • Aaron

        Don't you know, John Beilien did. He does all of Huggins recruiting.

  • jay zoom

    never seen so many cry babies about the officials in my life. Lets face people you cannot win a basketball game with 3 players. if he let Henderson dress he should of let him play a little to see how he could handle a game situation after his illness. Kansas is a sell out -- bet if you go to the coliseum before the game you can get a ticket pretty cheap after last nights game. make sure you take $20.00 to get in the parking lot. THANKS OLLIE

    • leroy j gibbs

      more like one player

  • DWM

    Huggins has done a terrific job with this team, congrats to the guys for being coachable and for getting the most out of the season. Good things are ahead for Men's WVU Basketball.

    I think it would be in Staten's best interest to return next year and become a better outside shooter. I think his intelligence and tenacity would land him a job in the NBA next year, but if he waits a year, continues to improve, he could be a 1st half of the first round pick.

    • David Kennedy

      DWM...thank you for posting the best comment on this blog...this team has incredible potential. With the new recruits they will be formidible next year. It takes everybody playing at their best to win games in todays basketball world. We needed a better bench and didn't have it this year.
      Not to say, this was a very good team...and teachable...I agree about Staten, one more year of publicity will be worth many extra millions if he can stay at WVU.

  • Baldeagle

    Juwaan is a great player on the college level, but due to the lack of an outside shot, he is not NBA quality player.

    • mineralcounty

      I feel the same way. But if he makes half of the improvement on his 3 ball by next year as he did with his midrange game and his overall game for that matter, he'll be ready. Sky's the limit for Wanny and the team as a whole

      • cutty77

        All you guys are wrong on Staten. He made himself millions of NBA dollors this year. Hell he never came off the court. He was first in minutes played in The Big 12. What else does he have to do, sell popcorn at halftime.

        • mineralcounty

          You may be right. All I was saying was if he makes the 3 a part of his repertoire he may become more than just a backup, end of the bench player in the league. He can be something special and with his unbelievable motor and superb work ethic I'm saying sky's the limit.

          • Aaron

            I agree completely. That just shows how much one aspect of the game can change a player at that level.

        • Aaron

          To make it in the NBA? He has to be able to hit the 3. If he can't do that, he won't play at the next level.

          • fw

            I believe the Celtics have a guard that can't hit the three.

          • mad hatter

            i concur with you aaron, you mighty brain from the north. without you on this comment board, we would be lost in space. What a miracle your mom must think you are. I am astutely,buried with your wisdom.

  • Baldeagle

    Given all that has happen to this team, I enjoyed this year's team and look forward to the next year.
    There is just no way a team like WVU can be consistent when one of your best scorer misses 5 games, no presence under the basket, two players can't qualify to play, no bench to speak of and inconsistent officiating from game to game.

  • USAUSA

    Typical Huggins offense. Which is no offense. Long drouts of no scoring is a trademark of a Huggins "offense."

  • WVU FAN

    The shallow folks only look at the L's & W's , I saw a team with heart and we are heads and shoulder above last years squad. Great Job to Bob Huggins already the best coach to ever coach at WVU and if he stays health with a little luck in his corner I can see him leading us to a National Championship plus many Big 12 Championships...I can see Kansas fans crying now...
    Let's Gooooooooooooo!!Mountaineeeeeeeers!!!!

    It's not over till it's over!!!!

    one more game boys!!!!

  • steve

    I think it has been a big improvement over last year. I really enjoy watching this team play. They are flawed in some areas but have improved greatly. As for Willie, you wouldn't pay a dime because McDonald's workers didn't recieve a raise. That's where you get your signature saying from-I'm lovin it. As for Indiana Jones Larry-pull your hat down over head and go away.

    • mad hatter

      what areas have shown improvement,,, rebounding, defense,,,,, i do think turnover margin has improved,,,coaching is still pretty shabby, to say the least.
      attendance is down, huggin'''s salary is up. Recruiting still is not up to par with the facilities that the donors forked out tons of dollars , only to see it empty most of the time. If it weren't for the woman's team, probably very few minutes would be used.

  • Big Larry

    This years basketball team will wind up winning 3 games more than last year...

    I guess we should all rejoice and be happy right?

    • hailey

      larry, this aint marshall, WVU fans will never jump for joy at a .500 season.... man you certainly have very low standards.

    • BONDO

      How many did your Herd win Big Mouth ?

      • Aaron

        I doubt hatters herd could handle West Lib. What a sad state MU basketball has become. I don't know who they're going to replace Herion with.

      • mad hatter

        you herd commenters need to go back to fatcity/

    • The bookman

      I'm rejoicing. We didn't step backward. We had heart. We won some and lost some. Keep climbing the rope. Now let's go get those Jayhawks!

      • mad hatter

        sounds to me like mediocrity is just find with you... "we win some , we lose some". i like your attitude, this way , you're never to high and never too low, and expect only what you get.

    • Aaron

      As opposed to what? Jumping off the Westover brigde.

      • mad hatter

        let's see, brigde???/ jumping off the westover brigde????? aaron, you never fail to let me down.

  • william

    Holton is not a player that I would ever want to see wear a WVU uniform!
    I would NOT pay a dime to watch this guy play.
    The more Huggins recruits, the more I DISLIKE WVU Basketball.
    How old will he be when he plays his first game with WVU? -- 25, 26?
    Holton stay out of Morgantown and take your BAGGAGE with you.

    • Allen

      The more you respond the more I know you are not a fan of WVU.

    • DWM

      I guess William has never made a mistake, good for him, he can throw the first stone.

      On the other hand, we all know William never would pay to watch the Mountaineers, so his threat is idle. It will be a great5 season next year.

    • mineralcounty

      Shut up. We don't ever want to see you comment on this site but we have no choice. If you don't want to see him wear a WVU uniform then don't watch and don't comment on here.

  • Aaron

    Baylor set the tempo in defending Harris and with Oklahoma allowed to grab him at every opportunity, it completely frustrated Harris, to the point that he slipped on defense and allowed his man to score 13 consecutive points. That's the difference in the ball game.

    I don't blame the officials other than they're not calling games like they did in the early part of the year. I know Huggins doesn't necessary have a problem with that but it is hard on kids who become used to playing a certain style, particularly if the physical play is not suited to their strong points.

    I agree that this team has hit its ceiling with the players they have but for me, it has been a fun year to watch, even with the defeats. Prior to last night, the only two games I had not seen at least part of the game was the two Texas games. For the most part, this team has competed, although the story seems to be the same in that they have too many mental lapses and allow spurts like they did last night.

    As a WVU fan, I am excited for the future in that if kids will put on their big boy pants and work in the off season, then I believe there is a bright future for this team. While Macon is still an unknown, Holton can score and rebound the ball so if the returning players improve as they should, and new players can contribute, there is a huge upside to this team.

    Juwan Staten is the key. Understandably so, he is going to test the NBA waters. It will surprise me if he is told he will be a first round choice, which would give him guaranteed money meaning the decision is easy. What I think will happen is those evaluating will tell him to return for his final season and improve his outside shooting as he cannot rely on going to the rim in the NBA.

    Eron Harris needs to get stronger, both mentally and physically. He is an excellent shooter, moves well without the ball and has a solid game (last night was an anomaly) but if he can get frustrated, particularly if he cannot get looks. His weakness is creating his own shot (it’s not as common as many think) and when the flow is not working, he sometimes tries to do too much. A good inside game will help him as much as anyone on the team, particularly is the bigs can throw the ball back out.

    Terry Henderson is a microcosm of Harris and maturity will help him immensely, as it will for Nathan Adrian. Both need to get in the weight room, work on their form and simply grow a year.

    Devin Williams needs to work on his jumping and in passing the ball back out. He will get a rebound and as he lacks the ability to go over defenders, will attempt to go around them and that simply does not work. He needs to learn to find an open man.

    Kevin Noreen simply needs to be a leader on this team. If he can guide younger guys, his biggest contributions will never be seen firsthand by Mountaineer nation. Brandon Watkins would do well to work with Noreen on attitude, hustle and defense. If he improves, he will see the floor a great deal next year. If he does not, he will not. It is that simple.

    • Rich

      All good points, Aaron. Losing this game could be a blessing in that we'll be forced to play in the play-in game vs TCU. It gives us a chance for another win and may help us secure an NIT bid. I don't think Staten is a 1st round pick. IMO HE IS the Big 12 POY and after last year I couldn't have imagined that in my wildest dreams. I think he lacks the outside shot to be a consistent pro since he is more of a lead guard than a true point guard. Hopefully he returns for his senior season, if he doesn't we'll just have to adjust and turn to experience (Gary Browne) or the future (Carter). Harris and Henderson HAVE to be more consistent. Williams has to learn to finish and Adrien needs more strenth. I believe the plan was to red-shirt Watkins this year, if Holton and Macon are here and eligible next year I think they should red-shirt Watkins and let him get stronger. Kevin Noreen should move on after he graduates. I hate saying that about a 21-22 year old kid who always gives his best effort when he plays but other than his 5 fouls I really don't see a role for him on next year's team. It also frees up another scholarship to possibly bring in another big. This was a better year than I expected and hopefully we can win a few games in the Big 12 tourney and/or the NIT

      • Aaron

        I truly believe the need Noreen, not for games, but for practices. He will go hard at Williams, Macon, Holton and Watkins every day, making them better players. Plus after 5 years he understands Hugs system.

        I've said before, to build a program, you need players like Noreen. Not everyone can be a starter and gone are the days of coming in, red-shirting their first year, playing a role for 2 years and working your way into the lineup.

        Now, if players aren't seeing immediate game time, they go elsewhere to play. The The end result is you get individuals who's understanding of basketball is 'outside the line, you get 3, inside you get 2, a free throw counts for 1' ranting about how coaches who have dedicated their life to basketball no longer understands the game and they cannot recruit.

        I don't know how many times I've seen unknowing posters saying Hugs is throwing players under the bus for telling the truth.

        While a NCAA berth would have been nice, I've thought this is an NIT team, which given the state on Jan 1, I did not see happening. If they make the NIT (and they should even if they finish 16-16) I will either be there or watching, cheering and enjoying the fact that they get a few more weeks of practice.

        Yes practice.

        • mad hatter

          aaron, i am so proud of you, you cease to amaze, for sure , you never fail to overlook the obvious. Simply amazing.

        • Rich

          If Noreen stays then I'd definitely redshirt Watkins unless we run into injury/eligibility problems. Both guys signed for next year are guards so that would give us a post player in that class. Watkins is more skilled/athletic than Noreen so after 3-4 years in the system he should be an impact player.

  • Alex

    Tom Eades....Ray Natili...Rodrick Dixon....
    The officials in last nights game should retire their whistles, they have accomplished the award of the worse officiating when it comes to calling a basketball Game it was terrible . Williams.... Staten ..... Watkins... Was blessed with the privilege of getting to free throw line.
    I know WVU missed more than they made. Zero free-throws in the first half ...NO way!! The officiating was for Oklahoma to win the game. Mission accomplished.... I know the fouls were about the same on each side but the timing of them hurt us... It changes the game when you call two fouls quickly on one of the best scores on the team. That's what they did to Harris ...... ( we may have lost the game any way )...WVU has been playing the way the officiating was supposed to be called in the beginning of the season and the officials call that way against them... But for last nights game Oklahoma got by with anyway they wanted to play... We are treated like the red headed step child... Hope it turns out better this weekend for the officiating.... Case closed....I am upset with them...

    • Allen

      WVU 4-10 from foul line

      Oklahoma 15-20 from foul line

      I would say that is the ball game right there.

      WVU needed to get to the foul line and make their foul shots. They out rebounded the Sooners, out shot the Sooners and had less TO's WVU lost at the foul line and fouls.