Week In Review:
Well, we followed up the win against Texas with our best performance of the year overall, even though we lost the game. WVU shot the ball well (an eye popping 51.1% from the field and 50% from three), played solid defense, and rebounded well against one of the better rebounding teams in the nation. We played as close to a complete game as we’ve played all year, and the players on the court seemed invested in the game all the way through. Juwan Staten sat the bench the entire game, but Jabarie Hinds stepped up with probably the best performance at point guard we’ve had all year. He’s out of his slump and he is scoring and running the offense consistently. The only thing he didn’t do well is the thing that ultimately cost us the game: free throw shooting.
Inconsistency at the line reared it’s ugly head again as the Mountaineers went 12-22 (54.5%) for the game. The worst offender of all was Jabarie Hinds, who went a miserable 1-6 from the line. Obviously, in a 1 point game, missing 10 free throws as a team, including 5 from your point guard, is unacceptable and no doubt cost us the game.
The officials became a story line in this game as well. I’ve been writing about how bad they’ve been all year and this game was no different. Towards the end of the game they inexplicably called Aric Murray for goaltending when he actually just went up and got an ordinary looking rebounded. It wasn’t even CLOSE to goaltending. There were also three out of bounds calls towards the end of the game that were horrible- all three very obviously touched last by a KSU player, but the refs gave the ball to KSU anyway. No doubt we cost ourselves the game with the poor free throw shooting, but these were crucial calls that could have tipped the scale in our favor (and quite literally, the stripes put points on the board for KSU- points that changed the outcome of the game, so we have a legit complaint). To be fair, KSU could complain about the 22-12 advantage we had in fouls being called to, so it definitely goes both ways.
Following the heartbreaker against KState, WVU traveled to Ames, Iowa and another heartbreaker. A new rotation emerged in this game, as Huggins was forced to go deep in the bench due to an injury to Terry Henderson, who didn’t make the trip, and Gary Browne, who sprained an ankle in the first half. Matt Humphrey and Aaron Brown saw the court for the first time in what feels like a month, and Juwan Staten came off the bench after sitting out the last game and a half. We went up 11-3 early before going cold (34.5% from the field, 0-10 from 3) for the rest of the first half, which featured the Cyclones raining threes down on the WVU defense. All-in-all, we were luck to go into halftime only down 3. The second half started out very badly, as WVU was COLD and not playing well at all. We went down as many as 17 before starting to climb back in the game, thanks to Eron Harris and Matt Humphrey getting hot from beyond the arc. Just like we did in the Texas game, we hit some key shots and made some nice shots on defense to get back in the game and tie it up on a three from Jabarie Hinds with 14 seconds on the clock. Iowa State then promptly took the ball down the court, got Aaric Murray to leave his man under the basket, and took the lead with 3 seconds on the clock.
“We just continue to shoot ourselves in the foot by not making rotations”- Coach Huggins on Aaric Murray’s defensive lap that lead to the winning basket.
What happened next is fitting for how this season has went. WVU, without any time outs, inbounded the ball. Eron Harris was trying to cross the halfcourt line when he was body checked by a Cyclone defender. No call. Time runs out. Huggins was livid. “That was every bit as much of a foul as the one they called on us in the Kansas State game… I just can’t believe we come off a home [game] when we bump and it’s a foul, and our guy gets bumped tonight and it’s a no call. It has to be consistent throughout the league.” I have to agree. The same thing has been called on us, so it has to be called when it’s done to us. Once again, you can’t chalk the loss up to the referees, but once again they took away a legitimate shot at winning the game in the final seconds. I just wish we could get competent officials. I’d almost rather have Tim freaking Higgins back at this point. It’s been really bad this season.
“They want us to be consistent, they want our players to be consistent, so they need to be consistent in the way the whistle is blown.” -Coach Huggins on the officiating this year.
After the game, Huggins also alluded to changes in the rotation, specifically going small with a four guard lineup: “It’s not advantageous to have a post guy with the way the game’s being called. This team was built to play in the Big East, and this is not a big, physical league. We’re going to have to go small and take our chances. Playing with our big guys just has not worked.”
My guess is this means we’ll be seeing more of Matt Humphrey, who could provide some desperately needed shooting. It should also mean more playing time for Aaron Brown. If we only have one big in the game at a time, I’d expect that to rotate between Rutledge, Murray, and Noreen. Kilicli doesn’t play in key situations and doesn’t get much playing time at all any more, and I wouldn’t expect that to change much. I do wonder if, when, and how Huggs will get Gerun into the lineup.
This team is just plagued by bad decisions though. I lost count of the number of threes we took in the first half that we shouldn’t have. There was Murray’s defensive lapse on the game winning basket. With just over a minute to go, Iowa State had the ball and WVU was playing tough defense. With only 10 seconds on the shot clock and ISU’s guard dribbling close to half court, Eron Harris fouls him. The list goes on and on. We continually shoot ourselves in the foot. All is not lost though, as Huggins said in post game, “We’re a call or two away from being 3-1 instead of 1-3.” Hopefully the new lineup will improve our fortunes going forward.
Player of the Week: Jabarie Hinds, 35 points, 4 assists, 1 steal in 70 minutes.
Hinds repeats as player of the week. He’s out of his slump, recorded a career high 20 points against Iowa State, and is running the offense consistently.
- Sat 1/19 @ Purdue
- Wed 1/23 vs. TCU
WVU wraps up the nonconference schedule on Saturday against Purdue. Purdue is in the midst of a disappointing season themselves, much like the Mountaineers. The don’t shoot the ball particularly well or score a lot of points, but they can rebound. In many ways, this game will be like playing ourselves and the winner might be the first to score 40 points.
Following that is a home matchup against TCU, who, despite their above .500 record (thanks to a weak nonconference schedule), is one of the worst teams in the Big 12. Their offense makes ours look like an NBA team. If we drop this game, you can kiss any hope of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament away.
News and Notes:
- Juwan Staten sat out the entire game against Kansas State but saw 29 minutes of action off the bench against Iowa State. It’s unclear if he’s out of the dog house or if Huggins had no other choice due to the injuries to Henderson and Browne.
- Noreen and Rutledge continue to start for the Mountaineers over Kilicli and Murray.