MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia guard Jermaine Haley didn’t care about his stats, save for his four turnovers, which he blamed for fueling Oklahoma’s first-half surge on Saturday.
“We had a lot of turnovers early, including me, I think I had [four] in the first half,” Haley said. “We kind of let them go on a run and we never recovered from it.”
Haley had a career-high 23 points and added six rebounds, but that part of the boxscore was simply numbers on a page after Oklahoma dismantled the Mountaineers 92-80.
Coupled with his previous two games before Saturday, Haley’s numbers look like this: 54 points on 19-of-32 shooting (59 percent), 21 rebounds and 16 assists.
But West Virginia (11-18, 3-13) lost two of those three games and still finds itself tied with Oklahoma State in last place in the Big 12.
Oklahoma erased an early 17-9 deficit and used a 13-1 run to end the first half with a 42-28 lead.
“Honestly, I’m going to put that on me, because I turned over the ball during that stretch,” Haley said. “That’s where all of my turnovers were. I think I had two travels and then came down and threw it away. That allowed them to go on a run.”
It has been that kind of season for the Mountaineers, where players can set a career-high in scoring and still walk out of the arena feeling they played terribly.
It only takes a few minutes of poor play to believe it. The bulk of West Virginia’s 17 turnovers against the Sooners (18-11, 6-10) came in the first half.
“Here is what I think is our biggest problem,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins began. “We make mistakes in a cluster. We don’t have 17 turnovers spaced out. We do it in a cluster, and then to compound that, we don’t make open shots.”
Not only are West Virginia’s 472 turnovers are the most in the Big 12, but they’re the only team in the conference to have surpassed 400. They’re on pace for 521, which would be the fourth-most in school history.
Like Haley, Huggins was the first to take the blame for the lack of fundamental play.
“It’s not intramurals. You don’t catch it and put it over your head and throw it into a guy’s hand,” Huggins said. “At the end of the day, it’s my fault. I told them it was my fault. It’s my fault, because we had all of these new guys and I thought there was so much to learn.
“Then, we go into our first game and get beat, because we don’t handle whatever, because we hadn’t practiced it. We jumped ahead instead of teaching them how to pivot and teaching them how to pass and teaching them the fundamental things of basketball. Kids, by and large, come in today very unprepared fundamentally.”
Among the number of things that need corrected, Huggins said fundamental play will improve in the offseason workouts. The Mountaineers will get 10 days of practice during July to prepare for a trip to Spain to play in exhibition games in August.
Division I coaches are also permitted two hours per week to work with players in offseason workouts.
“Fundamentally we’re just so bad,” Huggins said. “Those are things we’re going to work on this summer. We’re going to work on them when we go to Spain. We’re going to work on it in the preseason so that this doesn’t happen again.”
The loss ensures that West Virginia can finish no higher than ninth — the Mountaineers were predicted to finish third — in the Big 12.
It would be their lowest finish ever in the conference since joining in the 2012-13 season.