MORGANTOWN - Deniz Kilicli was on the basketball court at the Coliseum more than an hour before practice Tuesday, pushing up jump shots from all different angles around the basket and then jostling with managers under the rim on inside shots.
Limited to nine minutes in Saturday's loss to Michigan and basically benched for the entire second half, Kilicli has 11 points and four baskets the past three games.
"There are going to be times like that," said the senior forward who is shooting 39.4 percent. "It's just a time period right now where I don't shoot the ball well. The only reason I go in the game is to (score) the ball. It'll get better. In three years here, I've never shot the ball worse than this three- or four-game period. It'll get better, so I work on it."
A while later, center Aaric Murray - who Coach Bob Huggins left on campus when the team traveled to Brooklyn, N.Y., to play the Wolverines - was on the floor stretching and then shooting. Huggins said Murray, who was left behind for performance reasons, had been better the following two days and will play in tonight's 9 p.m. ESPNU home game against Oakland.
Huggins targeted both Murray and Kilicli, who was held scoreless, after Saturday's game. He said the team didn't miss Murray and he'd had players who were "way, way, way" better.
He said Kilicli has proven incapable of scoring around the rim and thus wasn't much help, which led Huggins to suggest his Mountaineers (4-5) were better with a small lineup that didn't feature either the 6-foot-10 Murray or the 6-foot-9 Kilicli.
"We finish around the rim better with a smaller lineup," he said. "It's a different way, but at least we can finish around the rim. We seemingly put more pressure on the rim and we get better shots, as well."
Opponents have outscored the Mountaineers by 18 points in the 204 minutes Kilicli has played this season.
In the 156 minutes with Kilicli on the bench, WVU has outscored teams by 34 points. Huggins removed Kilicli against Michigan and VMI this season and played a smaller lineup. The Mountaineers outscored VMI 61-29 and Michigan 57-56 with Kilicli on the bench.
Keaton Miles, a 6-7 sophomore forward, started in Murray's place against Michigan. WVU has outscored teams by 25 points when he's played and has been outscored by 10 points when he's on the bench. Huggins has also leaned considerably more on freshmen Terry Henderson and Eron Harris. He said both have improved more within the season than anyone else.
Yet Huggins said Tuesday "we haven't given up on anybody" and that he hasn't figured out who will start against the 4-7 Golden Grizzlies, who just beat 7-3 Valparaiso.