The Associated Press
West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins looks on the court in disbelief in front of his bench during the first half against Missouri on Thursday.
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Maybe West Virginia didn't play much at all like it did in the first eight games this season, but the Mountaineers can take comfort knowing they were like the previous 22 teams to play inside the Mizzou Arena.They lost.Missouri extended the nation's longest home winning streak to 23 games Thursday with a lot of help from the Mountaineers, who couldn't help themselves. WVU shot 41.5 percent from the floor and a season-low 21.9 percent from 3-point range and missed 8 of 21 free-throw attempts in a 80-71 loss in the Big 12/SEC Challenge before a crowd of 7,292."Coming into this game we definitely felt like we had a team that could come in here and win," West Virginia point guard Juwan Staten said. "The coaches did a great job preparing us. They let us know what they were going to run. They told us they had their three main scorers, which is what we saw (Thursday). We just didn't do what we needed to do in the first half. We fell down early and that made it hard for us when we were fighting back at the end."
The Mountaineers (6-3) entered the game shooting 49.2 percent from the floor (No. 43 nationally) and 46.5 percent from 3-point range (No. 3) and averaging 85.1 points (No. 27). Without their normal production, they couldn't fully erase a 14-point halftime deficit and a 25-point deficit in the second half.But they tried.Down 36-22 at the half after being down only seven with 90 seconds left before halftime, WVU scored first in the second half, but gave up the next nine points to fall behind 45-24, the largest deficit of the season. That lead would grow to 25 points with 8:55 to go.The Mountaineers trailed Wisconsin by 17 points in the first half of the championship game of the Cancun Challenge, but were back in that game early in the second half and within four points in the final minutes.
The Mountaineers rallied again and were within nine points after a prolonged and determined rally when Staten's layup made it 73-64. Missouri (8-0) missed twice inside and a loose ball rolled past half court, but a diving Staten fouled Wes Clark, who made two free throws with 90 seconds to go.WVU's Remi Dibo answered with his first three of the game on the next possession and Missouri called timeout leading 75-67.Missouri then turned the ball over on a travel, but Staten committed his fifth turnover of the game caught between a drive to the basket and a pass to Gary Browne for a 3-pointer that could have made it a five-point game with 56 seconds left."I think that we're better than that team, but we didn't come out in the game and act like we were the better team," said WVU's Eron Harris. "The way we played when we were coming back is the way we have to play. This happened last year when we had a few great comebacks, but the way we play when we're coming back, we've got to start playing like that the whole game."Harris contributed to the team's struggles with a season-low eight points on 3-for-6 shooting in just 19 minutes. He was pulled early in the second half after a blocked 3-pointer led to a Missouri dunk. He sat for 10 minutes.
"It's hard to shoot from where he was for most of the game," Huggins said.Staten had 16 points on 5-for-13 shooting, but didn't score going at the basket until the middle of the second half, which was about the time WVU got going. He added six rebounds and five assists. Browne and Terry Henderson both scored 14 points and Devin Williams added 10.
WVU shot 8-for-29 in the first half and 1-for-11 from 3-point range, but bumped those numbers up to 19-for-36 and 3-for-8 in the second half.The Tigers, who were 17-0 at home last season, have now won 38 of 39 games at home and 78 straight non-conference home games dating back to early in the 2005-06 season. They're 142-21 at home since the arena opened in 2004-05 season. Jordan Clarkson led all scorers with 25 points. Jabari Brown added 18 and Earnest Ross 16. Those three entered the game averaging 52.1 points per game.WVU, meanwhile, has lost six straight road games, but does return home Tuesday - to play No. 19 Gonzaga."We didn't quit," Huggins said. "You know we would have laid it down last year. There would have been guys taking the worst shots in the world. Then somebody else would take one worse than that."The Mountaineers missed their first eight shots, didn't score a point for more than five minutes at the start of the game and didn't make their first basket for another two minutes. Along the way, they turned the ball over twice, once out of a timeout they called in the middle of possession to set up an easy Missouri layup, and then later on a shot clock violation out of a media timeout."We took horrible shots," Huggins said. "For us, horrible shots."
Yet when Browne went 1-for-2 at the foul line at the 14:51 mark before Staten dug out a defensive rebound and raced the other way to set up Henderson for an open 3-pointer, it was just an 11-4 Missouri lead with 12:57 to go in the half.The Tigers doubled their lead to 25-11 with Clarkson scoring nine points and giving Harris problems. Clarkson drove on Harris and missed a free throw, but rebounded his miss and scored. Harris scored his first basket on the next possession with 9:21 left in the half, but Missouri hurried to its end and Clarkson drove and scored again on Harris and this time drew Harris' second foul.Harris went to the bench and Clarkson converted the three-point play for a 14-point lead with 9:06 to go in the halfContact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com
or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.