WVU basketball: Mountaineers drop fifth straight game with loss to Sooners
NORMAN, Okla. -- Out of patience and nearly out of time as a college basketball player at West Virginia University, Deniz Kilicli confessed after Wednesday night's 83-70 loss to Oklahoma he was also running out of ways to sum up the way his senior year has unfolded.
"I can't find anything positive to say after all these games this year," he said.
Kilicli wasn't being dramatic. He was being literal. A moment later, he abruptly ended a post-game interview and disappeared behind the team's locker room doors, no longer able to stifle his frustrations. It was an uncharacteristic cession to emotions from the normally elaborative Kilicli, but one best understood with the emotion that preceded the conclusion.
"It's been rough on everybody," he said. "Personally, it's been rough on me. I'm not healthy, you know? I'm not healthy. I can't sleep. I can't eat."
The only way the Mountaineers make any postseason appearance for a 10th consecutive season is to win the Big 12 Tournament next week.
"Yeah, we have a chance," Kilicli said. "We can go to the NCAA Tournament. Yeah, we can go do that, but if we keep doing this, our season will end next week. We already made history. This group of guys, us, we made history already."
The loss to the Sooners was the fifth in a row, the longest losing streak since the 2004-05 season that ended in the Elite Eight. A losing season is virtually guaranteed and that hasn't happened since the 2003-04 season.
The 17 losses are already the most in Coach Bob Huggins' 31-year career as a college coach. The losing streak is a first at the Division I level, too. He hadn't lost five straight games since the 1980-81 season at the NAIA's Walsh College, that against Heidelberg, Wooster, Bethany, Fairmont State and Urbana. That team won its next game and finished 14-16.
Huggins had only lost four straight games once in 28 years as a Division I coach, the 1984-85 season at Akron, his first at this level. The Zips finished 12-14.
WVU also lost to the Sooners for the third time in as many games this season. The 1998-99 Villanova team was the last to go 3-0 against the Mountaineers in one season.
"I don't know, man," Kilicli said. "I feel like we just don't have that -- I don't know what it is. Somebody calls it toughness. Some people call it having heart. Whatever. We just don't have that, I feel like."
Kilicli had 20 points in 9-for-13 shooting. Freshman Eron Harris added 23 points and five 3-point baskets. Aaric Murray scored 10 points off the bench and each would key a few rallies to get as close as three points in the second half after trailing by 17 points in the first half.
Romero Osby led the Sooners (20-9, 11-6) with 26 points and Steven Pledger made five 3s and had 23 points. Oklahoma outrebounded WVU 33-25 with a 23-8 scoring edge on second-chance points and was 21-for-27 at the free-throw line after tying the NCAA record by going 34-for-34 Saturday.
"We came into practice and said we have to keep them off the foul line, because obviously they shoot free throws very, very well. They get 27 free throws," Huggins said.
"And we said we can't let them get second shots. They beat us in Orlando when their guards killed our guards on the glass and they beat us in Morgantown because their bigs beat our bigs on the glass. Maybe we just can't rebound."
The Mountaineers are four games under .500 (13-17, 6-11). The NIT and the CBI postseason tournaments have a habit of picking teams above .500. To finish above .500, WVU would have to beat Iowa State in Saturday's regular-season finale and win all four of its games in the Big 12 Tournament.
That trophy comes with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, but WVU hasn't won more than three straight games this season.
WVU was down 10-1 Wednesday after 2:58 and down by double digits at the 12:20 mark before a crowd of 5,426 at the Lloyd Noble Center. It was the 15th time in 30 games the Mountaineers have trailed by at least 10 points. They're 1-14 in those games.
"When you did that big of a hole, you can't make any mistakes, OK?" Kilicli said. "You've got to play perfect after that. We try to do that every game. Nobody's perfect. When you mess up one play, that costs us the whole game, know what I mean? I'm tired of this. I'm tired of getting 12, 15 down and trying to get back up again, because it's hard to do."
The Mountaineers gave it a try and shot 69.6 percent in the second half, making 16-of-23 shots and 7-of-11 3-pointers. Oklahoma answered each of the runs.
The Sooners turned a three-point game into an eight-point game early in the second half and were up by 13 with 10 minutes to play.
Five points from Andrew Fitzgerald -- his only five points of the game -- turned a four-point game into a nine-point game with 4:17 remaining. Pledger's final 3 followed to finally put away the Mountaineers.
"How many times can a team come back in a year anyway?" Kilicli said. "Maybe once or twice. We try to do that every day. That shouldn't happen. We start the game down 7-1 -- 10-1, sorry -- and you can't do anything after that, know what I mean? These are good players, man."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.