MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Coaches tend to shy away from moral victories. Players, too, can be averse to drift down a road where a loss is deemed acceptable or tolerable, for one reason or another.
"I like to stay away from moral victories," West Virginia point guard Juwan Staten said after his Mountaineers lost to No. 15 Gonzaga, 80-76, Tuesday night inside the Coliseum. "I like the real victories."
Thirteen months ago, Staten's WVU debut ended in the worst loss of Bob Huggins' coaching career. Huggins, in an even more somber tone than usual, said after that 34-point loss that the Mountaineers "have a lot to fix. How do you fix them all, you know?"
Gonzaga's 84-50 home win over the Mountaineers to open the 2012-13 season proved to be a harbinger. The Bulldogs nearly navigated the regular season unscathed and entered the NCAA Tournament as the West Region No. 1 seed; West Virginia finished 13-19, the most losses of Huggins' career.
The 34-point loss was one of nine double-digit defeats for WVU last season. Although the Mountaineers again -- like a year ago -- have four losses on Dec. 11, they are by a combined 25 points. That's an average of 6.3 points per loss.
Last season West Virginia lost its 19 games by an average of 11.6 points -- the worst figure since Huggins returned to his alma mater.
Tuesday's loss was the 14th consecutive for the program against ranked teams, but the previous 13 defeats came by an average of 15.3 points. That includes last season's losses of 26 (at No. 6 Kansas), 16 (vs. No. 14 Oklahoma State), 15 (vs. No. 3 Michigan) and, of course, the dejecting defeat to those plucky Zags.
This season, deflation has been replaced by frustration.
"I think there's a level of frustration any time you lose a game because you just don't want to lose, especially when you're right there," Staten said after WVU's fourth single-digit loss this season. The Mountaineers actually led by double figures in two of those losses.
"It's great that we're not getting blown out or anything," Staten added, "but it gets frustrating that the games we are losing that we're right there. It lets us know that it's just a couple possessions, a couple plays here or there that are costing us."