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

  • clair

    fw is right on Rondo is a terrible shot yet an all star. I don't understand Huggins lack of recruting, he was at Kanas St. for what two years and brought in great recruits and K St is as isolated as Motown.

    • Aaron

      Rondo is a career 35% 3 point shooter, Huggy was at K-State one year, got one 5-star recruit which is the same number he's brought to WVU along with the eight 4-star recruits.

  • jay zoom

    IN CLOSING -- THIS TEAM SUCKS

  • mad hatter

    one big question for next yr, and maybe i just never heard the answer,,,, is holton now cleared for next yr?
    i know huggie said both are on the dean's list majoring in underwater basket weaving, but i have't heard for sure holton will be available.

  • mad hatter

    "we don't have enough guys",, humm, who's fault is that,,,
    i have to agree entirely with this article.. until we upgrade our talent ,we are pretty much positioned where we will inhabit for sometime to come..
    With all this hammering of our players by bobby, i fall back to the statement spoken rhetorically, and astutely, "who recruted these guys",, can we blame in it john beilein?

  • Pghmountaineer

    Since it's a foregone conclusion that this team is basically done for the year baring a miracle run in the Big 12 Tourney, let's just for the heck of it come up with some candidates who could replace Huggs. Be realistic, and don't name names like Coach K, Roy Williams, or Bill Self, etc...
    I say we go after Shaka Smart at VCU. Any other names?

    • Aaron

      If you can come up with a sound argument for replacing Bob Huggins based on reason and logic, I can give you the name to replace him.

      • mad hatter

        ok, the most intelligent man in Hamlin,, who is our next bb coach, if huggie bear is demoted? How bout holgerson/

        • Aaron

          Bob Huggins. I've yet to see a reasonable argument to dismiss him and there is certainly nothing even remotely close to intelligence coming from those suggesting that WVU would be better without their HOF coach.

          • Aaron

            If saying something negative to the ref is reason for firing the coach, what team would have a coach?

            Sorry Billy, you're going to have to elaborate a little more than that.

          • William

            Should have being FIRED last year for what he said to the ref.-

  • Alex

    I guess it's to the NIT. Had some hope this year, enjoyed the season. Seen every game, except the Texas game. Love the Mountaonteers.

  • John S. Shackelford

    WVU men's basketball team showed improvement this year. They moved one step up the latter to "a non-winning season". Unless they can win a game in the Big XII tourney, you can even count out the NIT.

    • Aaron

      Not because of the 500 record. Even though the NIT has not to date taken a sub-500 team, they changed the rules in 2005 to stipulate that they could if they choose to do so.

  • Mark

    Dibo and Harris killed us last night. If they just have mediocre games we probably win.

    • mad hatter

      i have to admit, and i thought the world of this guy, but dibo seems to have completely lost his shooting eye.
      as booby said, he was recruited to shoot the three, and though booby didn't say it outright last night, dibo stands around and watches the other team score.
      Defense is alien to our good boy dibo.

  • Terry

    Will Henderson be back for Saturdays game I seen he was dressed for last nights game

  • Adam

    Get rid of Noreen. You mean to tell me that we are giving away much needed scholarships to "Mr. Minnesota Basketball." All this guy does is fall dramatically, commit a stupid foul, and whine. I'm sick of seeing him on the floor doing nothing. He's outmatched by everyone because he's too slow to guard smaller guys and he is not strong or athletic enough to guard post players. Chase Connor deserves more playing time if you're going to play him this much. They say this guy does the "dirty work" but to me, Cam Thoroughman did this so much more effectively and much more noticeably.

  • Abbagoochie

    Put a fork in them boys.They are done. Kansas will tear them a new one sarurday,and they will lose in the 1st round of the tourney.

    • Aaron

      As usual Mr. Hatter your astute analysis is beyond reproach. Outstanding commentary. We all deferred to your infinite wisdom is superior intelligence. You should win the Pulitzer.

      • james hicks

        Please don't put him down, He cannot say anything about Marshal who has been losing to high school teams. He hates WVU so all he can do is try to run them down. Yes we have lost but most of those games were to top 25 teams. We have no seniors so we can only get better for next year.

      • mad hatter

        i concur your astute analysis is strictly rhetorical.

  • Jack

    Staten is rock solid every game, but due to the minutes he has to play, he wears down and he can't carry the whole team on his shoulders. Watching the game last night the defense was non-existent. All the open 3-point shooters and easy layups. Hopefully, they can get it together next season.

    • mad hatter

      this little man , is the biggest man on the team,, what a huge turnaround from last yr..
      i salute him for his hard work, and dedication,and with one more yr. he's a first rounder.

  • 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.