BLACKSBURG, Va. - After West Virginia University's basketball team fell to Virginia Tech Tuesday afternoon at the Cassell Coliseum, Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins was asked if losing the game could be a teaching point."I think we put ourselves in a big hole," he said flatly."Look at our schedule. It's pretty hard. We're going to have to win some games people don't think we can win."He paused.
"I could lie to you, but I'm not very good about that."Nor am I. My readers know that. So let's sum WVU's loss to Tech in a sentence.It was terrible.The loss wasn't unfortunate. It wasn't a matter of losing to a very good team. It wasn't a matter of losing to a good team. Or even an average team.It was a terrible loss to a terrible Virginia Tech team.Here's the deal. Erick Green, the Hokies' leading scorer - in fact, the nation's leading scorer - graduated from last season's team and is now playing in Italy.Tech's captain is a freshman, Ben Emelogu.One of the Hokies' best players, C.J. Barksdale, was suspended and didn't even play in his team's 87-82 victory over WVU.Freshman Malik Mueller was ruled ineligible.Virginia Tech lost its opener to USC Upstate. (Re-read that last sentence please.)
The Hokies coach, James Johnson, who played ball at Ferrum, is in his second season, while WVU has a Hall of Fame coach-in-waiting.
You probably had more folks in your office than what attended the start of Tuesday's afternoon game. (The attendance figure given was 5,049.)And the kicker: the Hokies were picked to finish 15th out of 15 teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference preseason media poll. There was more separation between them and Duke than there is these days between Demi and Ashton.Yet the Mountaineers lost to those Hokies.Afterward, Huggins addressed the situation. Until Tuesday, there were glowing reports. The Mountaineers were said to be more of a team than was the case last year. They were called coachable. Even in the first half on Tuesday, there were encouraging signs.Then, in a fashion that reminded one of WVU's football team, they crumbled.There were 13 blocked shots. But the ones that hurt the most seemed to be the ones altered. There was the 35.7 shooting percentage.
If Cassell Coliseum rattled this bunch, what will it do at Missouri or any of the Big 12 arenas?"It's like your kids," Huggins said. "You try to do the best job of telling your kids what's going to happen, you know? And most of the time they don't listen either."You've already been through it. So you try to tell them not to make the same mistakes I made - and they go and make the same mistakes their parents do. I guess that's what it is."I've told 'em and told 'em and told 'em and told 'em and told 'em that they can't take plays off. And we continually take plays off. We continually come out of a stance. We continually stand up. We continually don't get back and fortify the 3-point line."And on top of that, we missed about 106 layups."What about those blocked shots, five from Cadarian Raines, who is but 6-foot-9?"It's the first time we've played against guys who can block shots," shrugged Huggins. "We don't have any, so they don't ever see it in practice."Huggins admitted to his mistakes, among them inserting guard Terry Henderson, who has been recovering from a shin injury."I tried to play Terry, which I shouldn't have," he said. "I put him in a bad spot. You can't be off for a week and a half and come out and think you're going to pick up where you left off. It's not that kind of game."Henderson shot early and missed in a key spot at the end of the first half. But there was plenty of awful to go around. Highly touted recruit Devin Williams was 1 for 8 shooting. Juwan Staten was 3 of 12. Eron Harris was 4 of 17. The Mountaineers hit 52.9 percent of their 17 free throws in the second half."The frustrating thing is, I can't make adjustments," Huggins said. "I can't do it on the fly. It has to be after a timeout. And there are times we don't even do it after a timeout. We're pretty vanilla right now because I can't put stuff in."Morgantown High product Nathan Adrian began the game playing well, then finished 3 of 8 from the floor. The low point was at the end when he failed to draw iron in crunch time."Nate takes a shot with [seven] seconds to go," Huggins said. "We're down by 3. Why? Pass the ball. You didn't have it. It didn't work."Huggins was exasperated. With good reason."I even told them - and Da' wouldn't mind me telling them this - we lost the Oklahoma game in Charleston because Da'Sean Butler took two plays off and his guy scored five points," said the coach. "We had the game won. To his credit, he got better because he listened. That hit home with him."We're going to get better and better and better as the season goes along. They're good kids; they're coachable. They just don't understand how hard you have to play for how long."I say this all the time: You have to be really dumb to have to lose and learn. Why can't we win and learn?"Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.