"It's part of a growing process, but at some point we've got to get it. It has to start clicking at some point."
WVU made two baskets in the first 10 minutes of the second half, both 3s by Harris before he picked up his fourth foul and had to go to the bench with 15:08 left to play. They Mountaineers hung around by making a ton of free throws and the score was tied 54-54 in the middle of the second half when Forte made his first 3 after missing his first four attempts.
WVU had 19 points then and 13 of them were free throws after reaching the bonus in the first eight minutes of the half.
The Mountaineers had their last lead at 58-57 when Staten scored the second of his back-to-back baskets with 9:23 to go, but Nash had three straight three-point plays and then a short jumper in transition all in succession as part of an 11-2 run for a 68-60 lead. Smart's first basket put the Cowboys ahead 70-61 with 5:08 to go, their largest lead of the game.
Harris returned and made 3s on consecutive possessions to make it 70-67 with 3:48 to go, but Brown drove on Harris, scored and fouled Harris out of the game with 3:35 remaining. Adrian's 3 made it 75-70 before Williams stole the inbound and was fouled. He made two free throws and then the Mountaineers watched Brown miss two free throws with 1:05 to go to keep the score 75-72.
Adrian had a look at a 3 and missed before Forte made all six of his foul shots in the final 36 seconds to keep WVU out of reach. In his career, Forte has made 25 of 26 free throws in the final two minutes of a game.
"They're a great team that has great players," Staten said. "We came in here and played hard and fought the whole game. We got down, but we didn't hang our heads. We came back and kept on fighting. That's really all you can ask for.
"Nate's a freshman. He's played a lot of minutes this year, but he's still a freshman. That was his first time being put in this situation playing a team like that on the road. He's made big shots. He'll continue to make big shots. That's just one he missed. We're not going to place the blame on anybody."
The Mountaineers, who play Tuesday at Baylor (13-6, 1-5), did well to build a 25-18 lead with 7:45 to go in the first half as they battled foul trouble and a variety of lineups by making 10 of their first 20 shots. The whistles started to pile up, though, and before halftime seven of the 10 who played had at least two fouls. WVU couldn't guard Nash, who chewed through Huggins' post players by rebounding and attacking the basket.
The Mountaineers seemed to catch a break, though, when Smart and Harris were whistled for a double foul and Smart had to go to the bench with his second foul at the 7:24 mark, but that's where the Cowboys reversed the game. Nash's three-point play started a run that would turn their seven-point deficit into a seven-point halftime lead. He punctuated the scoring with a dunk right before the buzzer after the Mountaineers gave up a putback dunk by Markel Brown and then turned the ball over on the inbound.
The 6-foot-7 Nash had 10 of his 18 points -- he averages 13.3 -- as WVU went from leading 25-18 to trailing 42-35 at the half.
"He's been terrific all year," Huggins said. "He's probably the hardest (player to) guard in our league really. He can bounce it. If you let him catch it inside 15 feet, he's got a great chance at scoring. We knew that coming in."
WVU went the final 2:24 without a basket while being outscored 10-0. The Mountaineers also committed five turnovers for nine points as the Cowboys closed the half on a 24-10 run without Smart.
"I think when Smart plays, he dominates the ball," Staten said. "He's a great player, but he needs the ball in his hands to make the team go. When he's off the court or not getting it going, other players step up. But even without Smart, they have great players and a real matchup problem with Nash."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mi...@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu.