MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Bob Huggins lost four straight games as the head coach at Akron in 1984-85, the first of his now 29 seasons as a Division I head coach. It would be another 27 seasons, 647 wins and 894 games before West Virginia lost four in a row last season. That was a part of an all-time worst seven-game season-ending slide.
These Mountaineers (10-8, 2-3 Big 12) look to prevent another four-game streak in tonight's 8 p.m. game against Texas Tech (10-8, 2-3) inside the Coliseum.
The game will be televised by the Big 12 Network (MASN in Baltimore/Washington, PCNC in Pittsburgh, WIYE-My 5 in Parkersburg, WVFX in Clarksburg, WQCW in Charleston, WOAY in Beckley, WTOV-MeTV in Wheeling/Steubenville and ESPN3.com).
WVU has lost three straight after capping a 2-0 road trip with an overtime win at Texas Tech on Jan. 6. The Mountaineers would like to believe they're far from the team they were a year ago, which was the worst of Huggins' 32 seasons as a college head coach, and that they're actually closer to a better record this season than the standings indicate.
"Obviously, we'd like to win a few here in the short term and the long term, but we played very well in a loss to Oklahoma State. We had a chance to win the game," Huggins said. "Texas came here and played extremely well and we just didn't shoot the ball very well. With our team, we have to shoot it (well) from the perimeter. Then the Kansas State game, they just took it to us and we struggled with our shot."
The Mountaineers were a missed shot away from upsetting Oklahoma State at home Jan. 11, except that Markel Brown's shot went in for the 73-72 win and Juwan Staten's layup didn't. Texas then got easy shots and crushed the Mountaineers on the boards as part of a midseason surge.
The Longhorns would beat Iowa State at home three days later for a three-game winning streak before Tuesday's game against No. 22 Kansas State.
WVU then lost on the road to the Wildcats by the largest margin of the season in the 10th straight win at home for Kansas State, which also had a season-high shooting percentage.
Weak defense is a problem for the Mountaineers, but not all of a sudden. They're No. 7 in the 10-team Big 12 in scoring defense and No. 8 in field-goal percentage defense. What is somewhat new is misfiring from the 3-point line. WVU made just four in both of the past two games - 4-for-25 against Texas, 4-for-15 against Kansas State - after making five or fewer just three times in the first 16 games.
"We have struggled to shoot the ball here the last couple of weeks," Huggins said. "When we don't make perimeter shots, it's hard on us."
It's hard because the Mountaineers don't get stops. Kansas State had the Big 12's worst field-goal and 3-point shooting percentages and the second-lowest scoring average. The Wildcats shot a season-best percentage from the floor and led by double digits for the final 23:21. Texas shot its second-highest percentage of the season and led by at least 10 points for the final 22:11.
"We've got to keep plugging in practice," point guard Juwan Staten said. "Actually, in practice we guard the ball pretty well. Maybe that's because Coach is allowed to stop practice and put us on the treadmill when we're not where we're supposed to be. He can't do that in a game. We need to have the mental toughness to do everything in a game that we do in practice."