MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - In the second half of his team's 67-57 loss to Oklahoma Saturday, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins watched forward Deniz Kilicli miss an easy layup while being fouled.Huggins walked toward his team's radio setup, gunning for a water bottle, and shook his head.Later, with 53.2 seconds left, a partisan crowd of 12,112 walked out of the Coliseum likewise shaking their heads.Another loss. Another collapse. Another cold-shooting performance. Another collection of fundamental mistakes.
Many point to WVU's bad shooting, which is certainly a major factor. The Mountaineers (7-6) are now shooting 39.7 percent for the season and 28.7 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.But there are more flaws than that. Many more.There's a lack of mental toughness. Just look at Saturday's WVU loss. The Mountaineers were up by 12 - and lost by 10 at home. Freshman Terry Henderson cooled and WVU folded. The Mountaineers didn't scrap. Instead, they bungled."I think a lot of times in conference games it comes down to the 50-50 balls, the second shot opportunities and just getting that rebound," said OU coach Lon Kruger.Oklahoma steeled. WVU wilted.Within that lack of mental toughness is an absence of killer instinct."Other teams get a lead on us and try to step on our throat," said WVU guard Jabarie Hinds. "We need to do the same.""We got too comfortable and just lost it," Henderson said.Within the awful shooting is the penchant for missing easy shots, bunnies. It's rather amazing and stupefying."I have no idea why that happens," Hinds said. "Coach runs plays to get the ball to certain players to get the ball as close as possible to the basket. It's our job just to put it in. I have no idea why the shots aren't falling. We've got to make layups."Is it like that in practice?
"Some days," Hinds said. "It's not consistent."The collapses point to a conditioning problem, although Hinds disagrees."We were tired [Saturday], but we have enough guys to sub in and out," he said.The list of ills, though, goes on and on.When the Mountaineers come out of timeouts, it's almost always a disaster. A turnover on a pass between Juwan Staten and Eron Harris. A 5-second inbound turnover. Botched offensive plays."I don't know what the problem is with that," Hinds said. "Coach designs the plays clearly. Everybody should understand it. He's explaining everything. I don't know why we can't run the plays efficiently."
"I guess we don't have the greatest listeners in the world," Huggins said. "We got a 5-second count on an inbounds and I told the guy [the Sooners] were going to try and string it out. So all you have to do is step to the ball - and he ran to half court. It's hard to confuse 'step to the ball' with 'run to half court.' "Defensively there are serious lapses. On Saturday, Huggins used 2-3 and 1-3-1 zones. (He's fearful now to use the point-drop because of a lack of basketball IQ.) Oklahoma feasted at the end."There were some times in the zone we didn't close out on guys we needed to," Hinds said. "Then there were some times we closed out on guys we didn't need to, that don't shoot, and they were penetrating and passing to the open man."It's enough to drive a player, coach and fan base crazy."Rebounding, turnovers, just silly, silly mistakes we made that they capitalized on," Hinds said. "We should have a better understanding on the court.""It kills me because I know how much it means to the people in this state," Huggins said. "I take full responsibility."I try to look at the good in people and, in hindsight, I should have made changes."Maybe he should now. The coach said perhaps he should "play smaller" in the future.Make no mistake, though, he's frustrated."I told them, 'What are we going to do?' " Huggins said. "I don't know what we're going to do. We had seven days to get ready [for Oklahoma]. What are we going to do now that we only have two, three days between games?"Huggins repeatedly said the bottom line is Oklahoma wanted it more than West Virginia. Hinds said the team simply needs "to come together more and pick each other up."Unfortunately for both, it's way more complicated than that.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.