The way West Virginia owned Oklahoma for most of Saturday’s Big 12 opener was encouraging, though any and all the good vibes were squashed by the way the Sooners dominated the final six minutes.
“People say you can have good losses, but I’ve never had one,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said Monday, still smarting from a 67-57 loss in which the Sooners scored 16 of the final 18 points.
While there’s no shame in losing to Oklahoma, which sports a No. 19 RPI, it’s hard to overlook WVU crumbling at home against a Sooners team that was only 4-20 in road games the past two-plus seasons (and only 2-15 in Big 12).
OU coach Lon Kruger unwittingly rubbed it in during Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference. “(Winning on the road) felt go
od for our guys — they haven’t felt that during their careers very often.” he said. “It’s hard to know how it feels until you do it a time or two.”
Now, West Virginia (7-6, 0-1) hits the road for a game against Texas (8-6, 0-1) on Wednesday night knowing the margin-of-error is shrinking for the team’s postseason chances of landing an NCAA bid. As of Monday, saddled with a 105 RPI, the Mountaineers aren’t even in the discussion for the field of 68, and they’ll need to finish at .500 to even warrant consideration for an NIT consolation prize.
“We’ve really put ourselves behind the 8-ball,” Huggins said. “It’s pretty simple — we’ve got to win some games.”
West Virginia’s shooting percentage (.397) ranks last in the Big 12, and after scrutinizing the Oklahoma game film, Huggins was mystified at how many point-blank shots his team flubbed.
“We missed 11 shots inside of 3 feet,” he said. “I love Oklahoma’s bigs, but they’re not shot-blockers. They’re not like people who we’re going to play against the next few games that are among the leaders in blocked shots and changing shots.
“There’s just not a lot of reasons why we missed the easy ones we missed. When you don’t make shots you’ve got to find other ways to score. We’ve got to do a better job of keeping balls alive and finishing around the goal.”
The emphasis on WVU’s shooting woes has obscured an even more disturbing trend: An inability to defend. West Virginia sits ninth in the league in field-goal percentage defense. Whereas previous Huggins teams have countered a similar offensive malaise by clamping down defensively, this squad isn’t finding a way to win games at either end.
“It would be nice if we made a shot once in a while … but in all honesty, we haven’t guarded as well as we normally guard,” Huggins said.
“People are shooting 43 percent against us. That hasn’t happened. We got outscored 30-10 in the paint. That hasn’t happened. There were five consecutive possessions Oklahoma got second-chance shots.”