WVU basketball: No. 10 Marquette tops WVU, 61-60
MORGANTOWN -- West Virginia's season didn't reach its end Friday night -- though the figurative definition may now challenge the literal one -- but Bob Huggins seemed close to edge.
A seventh loss in nine games, this one 61-60 at home to No. 10 Marquette after leading by 15 points in the second half, was followed by a candid and critical press conference. The Mountaineers coach targeted just about everyone not named Kevin Jones.
"This is as frustrated as I've been since my first year at Walsh College when I went home and asked my wife, 'Do you think I can sell insurance? Because I can't do this.'
"I can't lose like this. It eats me up. I can't do it. These guys, it doesn't seem to bother them much."
On national television, before a sold out Coliseum crowd of 12,087 and in their last regular-season game against a ranked team, WVU's bid for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid took a hit as it allowed the Golden Eagles to shoot 50 percent from the floor for the game, erase an 11-point halftime deficit and win despite benching three starters for the first half and a fourth player for the second half for violating team rules.
Marquette (24-5, 13-3 Big East) has won five straight games and 12 of 13 and dominated the Mountaineers (17-12, 7-9) in the second half. The Golden Eagles shot 53.6 percent and scored 26 of their 40 points in the paint. The only jump shots Marquette made were a pair of 3-point baskets.
WVU, which is 4-6 in games decided by six or fewer points, turned the ball over 10 times in the second half for 15 Marquette points. Marquette had seven steals in the second half and nine second-chance points on six offensive rebounds -- and that followed having none of either in the first half.
The Golden Eagles did enough despite committing 14 turnovers and missing 10 of 20 free-throw attempts, including two to give WVU a chance to win at the buzzer.
"I've been doing this 30 years, man, and people who have seen my teams play, we never got outmanned like we got outmanned (Friday)," Huggins said. "We never got outmanned. Never."
WVU was 11-for-30 in the second half and sprinkled its turnovers and other bad and bizarre decisions in critical situations. It bothered Huggins deeply.
He called one player a coward for refusing to take a charge. He suggested taking money out of some scholarships and charging those players for season tickets because they'd been spectators throughout the season. He threatened to not renew scholarships for next season.
Huggins called a timeout when the lead was slipping away and stomped out onto the floor to admonish freshman Aaron Brown for a turnover and then not getting back on defense. Marquette missed the run-out layup, but dunked the rebound since it was a 2-on-1 fast break.
The errors of a struggling team featuring four freshmen and a junior college transfer came together and at the worst imaginable time for a team that was once 15-5 overall and 5-2 in the conference and seemingly streaking for a fifth straight NCAA Tournament bid.
The Mountaineers went from leading 37-22 with 18 minutes, 36 seconds left in the game to trailing 46-45 at the 7:16 mark and ultimately losing when Truck Bryant's moving, one-handed push shot missed at the buzzer.
Now they must make the most of Tuesday's home game against DePaul (11-16, 2-13) and Saturday's game at South Florida (17-11, 10-5) and then likely begin play on the first day of the Big East Tournament.
"What I feel like is going in there for three hours and just running the absolute you-know-what out of them and making them stand there and take charges and making them dive on the floor, but you can't do it this time of the year," Huggins said. "I didn't do it because everyone says, 'Well, they're freshmen.' Well, they're freshmen that don't win. That's what they are."
Jones had 12 points and six rebounds and finished 5-for-14 from the floor and 0-for-5 from 3-point range. Bryant had 25 points and was 8-for-17 from the floor and 5-for-11 from 3-point range, but also went 10:50 between scores in the second half.
Deniz Kilicli finished 3-for-7 for eight points and turned it over five times, including twice at the top of the key for easy Marquette points in the second half. The second came after a timeout with 1:08 remaining when Kilicli hurried a pass that was stolen by Vander Blue, who made two free throws for a 61-56 lead.
For a second straight game, no WVU player shot better than 50 percent. The team finished at 39 percent and missed 15 of 20 3-point attempts.
"We had a lot of opportunities in the game and we had a lot of chances to win, but they came in and basically outplayed us in the second half," Jones said. "We can't blame anybody but ourselves."
An ideal opportunity slipped away from the Mountaineers. The Golden Eagles started the game without Darius-Johnson Odom, the conference's second leading scorer, and fellow starters Blue and Junior Cadougan. They were suspended the first half for a violation of team rules. Todd Mayo was suspended the second half.
Blue finished with 10 points and three steams. Johnson-Odom scored nine points and had two assists at the basket for teammates to dunk. Cadougan scored four points. Jae Crowder scored 26 points with 17 coming in the second half. Those four were the only Marquette players to score in the second half.
The help was fine at the start, though, and the Golden Eagles made 5 of 7 shots to begin the game and had the score tied 11-11. WVU managed a rare halftime lead as Marquette missed 9 of the next 13 shots. The Mountaineers closed on a 21-10 run and were up 32-21 for their second halftime lead in the past nine games.
WVU was just 12-for-29 and Jones sat out the final six minutes with two fouls. Bryant supplied the help with 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting. He had more than 15 points just once in the previous seven games. The Mountaineers outrebounded the Eagles 22-11 and had 8-0 edges in offensive rebounds and second-chance points.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.