AMES, Iowa — It came from the student section Wednesday night, beginning in the first row, then catching on with the next and so on.
“Country roads, take me home, to the place, I belong, West Virginia …”
They sang in unison, the Iowa State student section’s mockery of another shoddy defensive performance by the Mountaineers just may have been the low point this season.
In dropping a 93-68 decision to the No. 20 Cyclones, West Virginia saw just about everything come unraveled and tossed to the side. That included coach Bob Huggins, who was ejected with 3:28 remaining and the Mountaineers trailing by 19.
He was arguing a no-call on Wes Harris’ 3-point attempt. Earlier in the game, Iowa State’s Lindell Wigginton twice shot three free throws after close-out fouls by WVU’s Jermaine Haley.
“What was my grievance?” Huggins began. “I just think things ought to be equitable. I thought our guy got knocked down. Obviously they didn’t. We had a difference of opinion.”
BOXSCORE: Iowa State 93, West Virginia 68
It was the third straight loss for the Mountaineers (9-12, 1-7 Big 12), which traveled without guard Beetle Bolden, who is out with an ankle injury. It was also the third straight game the Mountaineers trailed by at least 20 points.
“Any home win, any conference win is a big one,” said coach Steve Prohm, whose Cyclones (16-5, 5-3) are one of five teams within half-game of the Big 12 lead.
Iowa State overplayed passing lanes early, causing turnovers near midcourt and easy baskets at the other end.
The Cyclones shot 55 percent from the floor. It was the highest an opposing team shot this season.
“No knock on them, but everybody shoots a high percentage against us,” Huggins said. “We suck.”
“Just to show you how tough they are to guard, they bring in 28 points and a McDonald’s All-American [Wigginton] off the bench,” said West Virginia guard Jordan McCabe. “Wigginton comes in and does his thing tonight. We knew he was a very good player and we need to be better at knowing who we want to take away. You let a guy like that get going, it’s going to be a long night.”
Wigginton, an All-Big 12 Newcomer last year, began this season with a strained foot that caused him to miss the first 10 games. Now he’s making up for lost time.
While his 28 points came on a variety of ways, he was best at drawing contact and getting to the foul line, where he finished 13-of-16.
“We’re just getting after it, buying into what Coach is saying, and our chemistry on the court is really good,” Wigginton said.
Actually, Wigginton outshot the Mountaineers by himself at the line. WVU finished just 8-of-13 and added to the blowout by turning the ball over 19 times, which the Cyclones converted into 29 points.
“They have good spacing and they have good passers,” West Virginia forward Lamont West said. “They do what their coaches tell them to do.”
West finish with 24 points on 7-of-10 from the floor, breaking out of a skid that had seen him shoot 6-of-22 over the last four games.
Esa Ahmad surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career and he finished with 11 points, but he fouled out with 5:20 remaining looking as frustrated as could be. After his fifth foul, a strip of Michael Jacobson in the lane, Ahmad ran to the bench and pointed toward the replay on the video board.
It’s a feeling shared by everyone on the West Virginia roster.
“I’m miserable,” Huggins said.
McCabe predicted resilient players would find a way to improve through this crumbling season.
“It’s tough, but I think mentally tough people are able to get through it,” the freshman said. “Mentally tough people, when things aren’t going their way, find ways to get to the gym every day and bring a good attitude to practice and not letting the things that would get most people down pull you down. In a stretch like this, it can get ugly quick.”