WVU basketball: Issues continue to pile up for Mountaineers
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Bob Huggins was behind the closed doors that secured his team's locker room Saturday afternoon for about 30 minutes after West Virginia lost to Purdue.
In the hallway directly outside, there were no noises, no indications Huggins was irate or even miffed about a 79-52 loss, one that dropped his team's record to a game below .500.
That is not the norm.
So many times in the past the Mountaineers have been crushed or nipped in road games and witnesses could stand outside the locker room doors and hear the things being said and the volume used to highlight the anger, a luxury that can't be experienced at the Coliseum, where the locker rooms are far from the most astute ear.
Huggins eventually opened the doors inside Mackey Arena and headed to his contractually obligated radio appearance, but his face wasn't flush, his breaths were even and he simply sipped a bottle of water and screwed the cap back on top.
That was not the norm, either.
"It seems like he's just over that phase," guard Jabarie Hinds said.
The WVU coach was measured and not maniacal in the locker room. There was a discussion instead of a tirade.
Huggins explained his issues in a controlled manner rather than a rant. He plainly told his team it is disappointing, frustrating, underwhelming, in a bad spot because it does not play hard.
"He was truthful with us," point guard Juwan Staten said. "He told us everything he thought and it was the truth.
"Every person in the locker room, all the players need to look in the mirror and think about what we're doing to contribute and what we're doing that's not contributing to the team. We all need to come together and fix it all. That's all we can do now."
Hinds called his coach's response "unusual," but understood it. He and his teammates had heard it all before and knew Huggins could call up the same talk so many times.
"They prepared us well enough for this game," Hinds said. "It's not like we can blame anything on the coaches. It was us. We didn't give the maximum effort we hoped for, like he asked for."
The Mountaineers (8-9, 1-3 Big 12) now have three losses to teams No. 120 or worse in the RPI (Davidson, Duquesne and Purdue) and just one win against a top 100 team - and No. 72 Eastern Kentucky was well above 100 when the Mountaineers won their Dec. 30 game. Purdue was No. 121 entering Saturday's game.
WVU has nine games left against the RPI top 100 and not much time remaining. This is the latest in a season the Mountaineers have been under .500 since the conclusion of the 2002-03 season - and that team was 11-6 after 17 games before finishing 14-15.
A loss in Wednesday's 7:30 p.m. home game on ESPN2 against TCU (9-9, 0-5) would create a four-game losing streak, the Mountaineers' longest under Huggins.
"I continue to tell them, 'Just give me seven or eight guys,' " Huggins said. "I really don't care which seven or eight, as long as they digest the scouting report and do what they're asked to do and pass the ball."
The Mountaineers have five road games left against top 100 teams. They're 1-4 on the road, with 34- and 27-point losses, a loss when ahead by 15 points, a loss in the final seconds when down 18 in the second half and a win after trailing by 13 in the second half.
The Mountaineers shot 29.4 percent and missed 15 of 18 3-point shots before 14,677 fervent fans Saturday.
They started 2-for-11 in the first half and 0-for-8 in the second half and needed to play more than 30 minutes before two players had more than one basket.
Yet they were also outrebounded by 10 and committed 17 turnovers that gave Purdue 22 points. In addition to bad and sometimes awful passes, WVU was guilty of travels, offensive fouls, a three-seconds violation and three double dribbles. WVU was averaging 12 turnovers per game, or one fewer than it had in the first half.
"We don't have the same type of fight that we should have playing for a coach that, I would say, has a lot of fight and who has had great teams that were not always the most talented teams, but teams that always competed," Staten said. "Coach used to have teams that competed and when you have a team that you don't feel competes, it drives you crazy. We all understand where he's coming from."
Purdue - a team that had lost to Bucknell in November and Eastern Michigan in December in non-conference play and had a 23-point loss to Michigan State in Big Ten play this month - shot 53.8 percent in the second half. The Boilermakers made 8 of 11 3-point shots in the game and had 36 points in the paint and 23 second-chance points.
"We used to give guys quizzes after the scouting report to see what they actually learned," Huggins said. "I'm not sure if we don't do it now for them or for me. We've got a whole bunch of guys who wouldn't get any right.
"We don't take anything away. This is not what I've built a career on. We let them do what they want to do. We let them throw it where they want to throw it. We let them drive it where they wanted to drive it. We just do the most inexplicable things I've ever seen."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.