WVU basketball: Mountaineers look to avoid five-game skid
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- The NCAA Tournament escaped long ago. The NIT, at best, is unlikely. A CBI bid might not be worth the school's time and money.
But who says there is nothing left for West Virginia this season?
In 28 seasons as a Division I coach, Bob Huggins has never coached five consecutive losses. His sixth team of Mountaineers can avoid a fifth straight loss by winning Wednesday's game at Oklahoma.
That won't be easy. WVU, 13-16 overall and 6-10 in the Big 12, is 0-2 against the Sooners and 3-8 in road games. Oklahoma (19-9, 10-6) has won four of six with the two losses coming on the road by a combined 11 points. The Sooners are 11-2 at home and have won four straight at the Lloyd Noble Center with wins against Kansas, Baylor and Iowa State.
But greater than all of that is this: These Mountaineers aren't good in adverse situations. Time and again WVU has been pushed and then been pushed over this season.
"We're not good enough," Huggins said Saturday afternoon following another lopsided loss, this one a 91-65 laugher at No. 6 Kansas in which the home team made 57 percent of its shots, had assists on 29 of 34 baskets, dunked eight times and blocked 13 WVU shots.
It gave Huggins a fourth consecutive loss for the first time since the 1984-85 season at Akron, his first in Division I. In between the four-game losing streaks, Huggins won 647 of 894 games (72.3 percent) averaged 24 wins in the regular season and was never three games below .500.
This, however, is not those teams.
"I've been embarrassed since the first game," Huggins said, referring to the 34-point loss at Gonzaga, the worst loss in his career. "Go back and look. I don't get beat like that. My guys played so hard and competed so hard that whenever we got beat, we never got beat like that. Ever."
The loss to Kansas was the fifth this season by at least 20 points.
Huggins lost five games by 20 or more points in his five seasons at Akron, five in his 16 seasons at Cincinnati and three in his season at Kansas State. That was the only season that had more than one of those losses.
The 91 points allowed to Kansas was the most against WVU in a regulation game since 2003. Northeastern, coached by WVU assistant Ron Everhart, beat the Mountaineers 91-85. Kansas freshman Ben McLemore set the school's single-game freshman scoring record with 36 points, breaking the record Danny Manning set in 1985.
The game got so out of hand that Manning's son made a 3-pointer, which was one more basket than Jabarie Hinds had in 19 minutes. Yet it was over long before that. The Mountaineers trailed by 10 points late in the first half and dropped to 1-13 when they fall behind by double figures. In those 13 losses, WVU worked to a single-digit final margin just four times while the deficit has reached the 20s five times. The average margin of defeat is 15 points.
"I'd be less than honest if I didn't tell you, because it's happened so much, that I think there have been times we've put our heads down and made it worse," Huggins said.
WVU is 0-7 when the other team shoots at least 50 percent and each team has managed a lead of at least 11 points while five won by at least 10 points. Kansas blew Saturday's game open with a 12-0 run after WVU cut a 16-point lead to just 10. The Jayhawks started the second half making 12 of 15 shots and each basket had an assist.
The Mountaineers admitted afterward they were overwhelmed and sensed some surrender.
"Honestly, I think there was," freshman Eron Harris said. "Me, I want to play defense. I'm not going to quit until the horn. I'm going to play defense, but there might have been some lapses, some losses of motivation out there. But that's something that can be fixed. And it will be."
There's a solution, one that rescued Kansas from an early deficit.
"Make shots," Huggins said.
That's WVU's weakness. Field-goal and 3-point shooting percentages are much different in wins and losses, but the Mountaineers average 60.4 points in losses, more than 11 points off what they averages in wins.
"We're not good enough to get down 10, 12, 14 points to a team as good as what they are and be able to come back," Huggins said. "We don't have enough offensive firepower to be able to come back."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.