Mountaineers' Kevin Jones needs help to win
MORGANTOWN -- Kevin Jones is still scoring and rebounding, still leads the Big East Conference in both categories and is still on track to become just the third player to do that for an entire season.
Yet Jones isn't sleeping because Jones isn't winning.
In the midst of the best stretch of basketball of his life, a run of eight games with at least 20 points and five double-doubles, West Virginia is just 4-4. Monday's 72-66 loss to Pitt was the third in a row for the Mountaineers.
Jones' 15th double-double in 23 games couldn't prevent the longest WVU losing streak since 2006.
"Whatever I get on the court, whether it's 20 or 10, I just want the team to win," the senior from Mount Vernon, N.Y. said. "I just want us to be successful and win and we're not winning right now."
Jones is averaging 23.3 points and 11.3 rebounds the past eight games. He's played 40 minutes five times, 41 once and 39 and 36 in the two others. He is, quite obviously, everything for the Mountaineers.
"I feel terrible for K.J. because he is playing his heart out," West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins said.
Only St. John's Walter Berry and Notre Dame's Troy Murphy have led the Big East in scoring and rebounding. Berry (1985-86) and Murphy (1999-2000) were Big East Players of the Year - and award a WVU player has never won - and All-America first team picks.
The last WVU player to have nine 20-point games in a row was Wil Robinson, in 1971-72.
The Mountaineers have slipped to 15-8 and 5-5 in the Big East as they wait until Super Bowl Sunday's noon game at last-place Providence (12-10, 1-8) to avoid the first four-game losing streak since a five-game slide in the Elite Eight season in 2004-05.
"I don't know whether it's a thing where I have to do more or maybe it's something I'm not doing," Jones said.
"I'm confused. Maybe I'll use the time off to think about what I need to do."
Jones is shooting 53.9 percent this season, but his percentages the past three losses have been 47.6, 44.4 and 43.8 percent.
He has taken 55 shots in the losses, matching his most in a three-game stretch this season - and the other three-game run included two overtime games.
Jones was 10-for-20 from 3-point range in five games before the losing streak. He was 0-for-5 against Pitt and is 2-for-12 in the losing streak,
"He took a couple quick 3s he shouldn't have taken, but what am I supposed to say to him with everything he's done?" Huggins said. "I know he's trying to win. I have no doubt he's trying to win. I think the biggest mistake he can make is to try to do more."
Yet the urge and the need are both there. WVU hasn't scored more than 66 points in its three losses. Guard Truck Bryant has struggled shooting from all over the floor while center Deniz Kilicli hasn't been able to score close to the basket.
WVU's freshmen - starters Keaton Miles and Jabarie Hinds and reserves Gary Browne and Aaron Brown - haven't been consistent scorers or facilitators in the offense and have been interchangeable unreliable in other areas.
"I asked our guys, all the guys who think they're so good, 'Let me ask you something? Where would we be without No. 5?' Think what our record would be without him," Huggins said. "He's been the MVP in the country. Playing with all the freshmen who can't pass him the ball - who don't pass him the ball - the numbers he gets? That's pretty good when we can't pass him the ball."
In one telling and decisive sequence, Pitt led 56-54 with 6:11 to go and Jones missed a quick corner 3. Jones hurried back to guard Lamar Patterson's layup and forced a miss, but his momentum carried Jones out of bounds under the basket. Patterson shot again and missed again and then scored on his third try 36 seconds after Jones missed his 3.
WVU never had the ball with a chance to tie the score or take the lead the rest of the way.
Explanations and solutions escape Jones. He knows he's been productive, but can only do so much and might have to bring others along before it's too late.
The Mountaineers' RPI ranking, the one evaluation Huggins leans on the most, slipped from No. 17 to 29 with the loss to the rising Panthers (14-9, 3-7).
"It's hard to find that balance and whether we need to get more people involved," Jones said.
"Maybe people rely on me and Truck and (Kilicli) to carry us too much. Maybe we need to get more people involved and get their confidence up so we can attack with more than three guys. It's something we need to think about."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.