WVU basketball: Lack of scoring biggest problem for Mountaineers
NORMAN, Okla. -- Terry Henderson jumped off the bench Saturday, made six 3-pointers and scored 20 points for West Virginia in a loss where another 26 points from Henderson would have only tied the final score.
It was Henderson's third 20-point game of the season, which is a nice number for a true freshman who missed games and was then limited because of a back bruise.
It was also the seventh time a WVU player has scored 20 points in a game this season. Not this calendar year. Not in Big 12 games. In all the games played in the 2012-13 season.
"We're the type of team that doesn't have that standout superstar you can throw the ball to to get a bucket," Henderson said.
As a result, WVU ranks No. 308 out of 345 Division I teams in field-goal shooting (40 percent) and No. 302 in 3-point shooting (30.6 percent). Those are the biggest explanations for the biggest problem: The Mountaineers don't score.
"In today's game," Coach Bob Huggins said, "if you can score the ball, you've got a chance."
WVU averages 65.6 points per game with a 13-16 record. In Big 12 play, where the record is 6-10, the Mountaineers average 2.5 fewer points per game. The Big 12 has four of the top 63 and five of the top 90 scoring offenses in the country.
WVU is the eighth-best scoring team in the Big 12.
"When you're in a so-called power conference, you can't have a bad day," Huggins said. "If you have a bad day, you lose."
Oklahoma (19-9, 10-6), which plays host to the Mountaineers tonight at 9 p.m. on ESPN2, is No. 90 nationally and averages 71 points per game. The Sooners are actually better in Big 12 play and average 73.4 per game, the second-best total in league games. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas are the only teams scoring better in conference play than in non-conference play, but Oklahoma's differential is the largest.
A year ago, WVU ranked No. 94 and averaged 71.1 points per game despite the worst 3-point shooting in school history (29.8) and just 43.8 percent shooting overall. The Mountaineers scored 67.8 points in Big East games and the Big East was a much better defensive conference with five of the top 43 scoring defenses.
"I'm not trying to say this as a negative, but if you look at it, the sophomores are all shooting the ball 10 to 12 percentage points lower than what they shot it a year ago as freshmen," Huggins said. "We didn't get the impact we were hoping we would get from the transfers. And, obviously, things happen - Matt Humphrey has surgery two weeks before practice starts when he wasn't here all summer. That certainly has an effect."
Sophomore Jabarie Hinds is shooting 8.9 percentage points worse, but his role has diminished and he's only played 25 scoreless minutes the past two games. Sophomore Gary Browne is shooting 12.9 percentage points lower and playing 4.6 fewer minutes per game. Sophomores Keaton Miles and Aaron Brown haven't played enough to register, though Miles is shooting much better and Brown is shooting much worse.
Humphrey is one of WVU's three transfers who debuted with WVU this season.
He was a starter when the season began, but his playing time dwindled and he eventually missed games after aggravating his shooting shoulder. He's started the past two games, but still hasn't given WVU the perimeter offense (15-for-45 from 3-point range, 4.2 points per game) or defense Huggins expected.
Point guard Juwan Staten has been productive with the way he's distributed the ball and is second in the Big 12 with a 2.14 assist-turnover ratio, but he was averaging 11 points per game at the start of conference play and is at 8.3 now. Center Aaric Murray has two of WVU's 20-point games, but he's slipped from 10.5 points per game at the start of Big 12 play to 8.3 now. Murray hasn't been able to stay in the starting lineup or out of foul trouble.
"The bottom line is we all need to do a better job, me included, or me more than anybody else," Huggins said.
WVU has scored 70 points just twice in Big 12 play, both wins. It's been eight games and 29 days since the Mountaineers last scored 70. That's something of a winning number for the Mountaineers under Huggins. They were 89-13 in Huggins' first five seasons when scoring 70 or more. They're 7-1 this season, with the loss coming to Oklahoma in the Old Spice Classic. That's part of Oklahoma's 13-2 record when it scores at least 70 points.
Huggins has tried, though. He's used 13 different starting lineups. He's started a group of bigger players and a group of smaller players. He's featured his motion offense and tailored it to include dribble-drive and in the past two games screens and handoffs. The Mountaineers had game-winning and game-tying shots in the final minute of last week's loss to Baylor and were competitive before they were overwhelmed against Kansas and its 56.7 percent shooting.
"I think we have pushed through it better," Huggins said. "In all honesty, it was hard to see that at Kansas, but let's be honest: When they make shots like that, they're awfully hard to guard. Those guys have got four fifth-year seniors who understand and can make adjustments and they did make adjustments.
"I think that's been the hard thing for us. Even though we have some upperclassmen, Deniz (Kilicli) is the only one who's really played much. It's hard to make the kind of adjustments we need to make because of a lack of knowledge and experience."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.