MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Bob Huggins has this one-liner that may be a coping mechanism at this point, but nevertheless establishes the level of expectations for his team.
"We ought to be used to not making shots," the West Virginia men's basketball coach said again after Saturday's 79-52 loss to Purdue. "We're very proficient at it."
By that logic, the Mountaineers, ranked No. 322 in field-goal percentage (39.1) and No. 328 in 3-point percentage (28.3), should understand after 17 games that they need to rescue themselves from themselves. They must do other things to win if they can't put the ball through the hoop.
Those things are not happening. WVU is actually finding new ways to complicate games. Officials whistled three double dribbles Saturday and the Mountaineers had more turnovers than assists for a fifth straight game.
"It just seems like every time I think I've maybe got something figured out, they just say, 'Ah, we can screw this up,' " Huggins said.
For a team that can give up a points and shooting percentages at an alarming rate, a group that's been outrebounded eight times, a roster of players with a habit of wiping sleep from their eyes at the start of the second half, it might be shortsighted to rest WVU's trouble on the shoulders of the offense.
Yet it might also be accurate. A lot of WVU's defensive, rebounding and intangible struggles can be attached to the offense.
"I don't think there's any question," Huggins said. "I think when you score you probably have more energy."
On an ordinary day, WVU doesn't do much with its possessions. There are about 67 in a game and WVU averages a very ordinary point per possession. The Mountaineers gave away 17 of those possessions with turnovers against the Boilermakers, who capitalized for 23 points toward their second-highest final score of the year.
Thirteen turnovers came in the first half, when the game was mostly decided.
The Mountaineers were outrebounded 44-34 against Purdue, a very good rebounding team that had averaged a plus-seven margin entering the game. Yet the margin in the second half, when WVU had to find a way, was plus-11.
WVU played with a collection of smaller players, though, after Huggins vowed to do so following last Wednesday's loss at Iowa State. More guards meant more shots, which meant more misses the Boilermakers were able to rebound after smartly crowding the paint.
"When we play four guards, we're much quicker and we can attack the rim more and we're supposed to get easier shots," WVU point guard Juwan Staten said. "On the defensive end, it's harder to guard them and they've got bigger players so it's kind of hard to rebound out of it."
Matt Humphrey slid into the starting lineup so the Mountaineers could play small.