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West Virginia basketball must get back on track

The West Virginia Mountaineers basketball team must turn things around quickly.
The West Virginia Mountaineers basketball team must turn things around quickly. (The Intelligencer)

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins didn’t have to think long for what was the primary culprit in the disappointing 84-68 loss on the road to Kansas State.

“We weren’t ready. We weren’t ready. We weren’t ready yesterday and we weren’t ready today,” Huggins said after the game. “It’s so much a mental game. They were desperate.”

The Wildcats controlled the game almost from start to finish building a 24-point lead at one point and then hanging on after the Mountaineers rallied to make it as close as six in the second half. Many of the same issues that have been plaguing the team reared their ugly head with 18 turnovers, going 12-22 from the free throw line and struggling to move the basketball on offense.

Those things have been staples in most games, but the success has been there. In the past four games, the Mountaineers had turned the ball over 73 times but were 3-1 in those games.

But the difference in this one being a loss was the play of the West Virginia defense, which allowed the Wildcats to match a season high in points allowed while shooting 59-percent from the floor and 50-percent from three. Over the three games before, the Mountaineers had held opponents to 48 points per game and 30-percent from the field while that total was only 20-percent from three.

The effort was clearly lacking on that end and it allowed Kansas State to drive the ball to the rim while getting a lot of their points off uncontested step-in shots. The West Virginia defense had been the one consistent on the season, but that was certainly not the case in Manhattan.

“We didn’t run them off the line. We let guys just stand there and make shots. It was very frustrating,” Huggins said of the effort.

Perhaps even more so because despite the fact that there is so much youth on the roster, the Mountaineers have three seniors and several sophomores that had already been through disappointment. The loss to Kansas State a season ago was where Huggins felt the season crumbled and he was displeased with the effort out of those that had been there before.

“Now we’re getting into the pouting thing. You throw the ball away, your man scores, you shoot one off the side of the backboard but it’s not your fault,” he said.

West Virginia let a golden opportunity go to waste in the sense that the Wildcats were previously winless in conference and the Mountaineers could have moved further up the totem pole. Now, the Mountaineers must regroup in short order to host Texas Monday night.

“You can’t explain to them; you can’t get this back. It’s gone. A great opportunity, gone,” Huggins said.

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