Week In Review
The last week was a tough one for the Mountaineers. We dropped two games- one blowout and one very close and fell 2 games below .500 on the year. The week kicked off with a trip to Oklahoma State last Saturday.
This game followed a familiar recipe- we got a big lead and gave it all away. We were up 13 with 5:29 left in the first half. Everything was going our way- shots were dropping, we were running the offense, our defense was tough and physical. But we got that double digit lead and just quit playing again. Oklahoma State finished the first half on a 19-3 run and went into the break with a 3 point lead. And, as usual in games where we had a big lead, we didn’t bother playing in the second half. We gave up 50 points on the way to a crushing defeat.
I can’t imagine how frustrated Huggins was with this game. You could hear it in his voice after the game. I think he’s at a loss as to how you can play so well for a period of time and then just quit. It seems like whenever teams adjust their defense to a zone, we have no answer, despite seeing it in virtually every game this year. I’m not really sure why every team doesn’t play a 2-3 zone against us 100% of the time, because it gives us fits. We don’t have the outside shooting to break it and we can’t seem to figure out how to penetrate it. It’s incredibly frustrating to watch. Huggins doesn’t know what to do- he says he calls timeouts, tells the players exactly what to do, and they go out and do something completely different on the next play. And things like that lead to blowout losses and repeatedly giving up big leads.
After that, Kansas came to the Coliseum for Big Monday. To be honest, I went into the game thinking we had absolutely no chance of winning. I actually was just hoping we’d keep the loss to 15 points or less. Sports are funny like that though, just when you think you have a team figured out, they come out and do something you thought they were incapable of doing.
The game against the Jayhawks started out about how I expected- 7 minutes into the game, we were down 12 and showed no signs of being able to do anything on offense. Our bigs were in foul trouble already and our guards looked clueless. The deficit grew to as much as 15 points with 6 minutes left, and then we started to crawl back, largely thanks to Aaric Murray and some solid defense. Murray scored 9 points in under 3 minutes to help the Mountaineers close to within 8 at the half. We continued to crawl back in the second half, closing the deficit to 2 with 14 minutes left on the clock and keeping it close the rest of the way.
We never did retake the lead though. We had it down to 2 a few times but some absolutely horrible calls from officials and very stupid plays by our players never let us get over the hump and take the lead. I’ve already discussed the officiating so I won’t get into that again, but we do plenty of things to stop ourselves. One obvious problem is that we cannot consistently shoot the ball. That’s not going to change this year. But the bigger problem is we go into spurts where we refuse to run an offense. One of the guards just dribbles the ball around half court for 20 seconds while every one else just stands around. Then, after a few failed attempts to get the ball inside, said guard is rushed and either turns the ball over, takes a completely ridiculous shot just before the shot clock expires, or tries to drive the lane and gets stopped by 3 defenders. I am certain that Huggins does not tell them to do that, so one can only conclude that the players are doing their own thing or just get lost on the court. The other big problem is that we can’t inbound the ball. Just like running the offense, it seems like every time, the four players on the court stand around for 3 seconds and then frantically move around trying to get open and the inbounder has to try to force the ball into a small area, which results in turnovers. Again, I’m sure that’s not what Huggins is telling them to do, it just looks like we’re lost on the court.
But, despite all of our shortcomings, I think we have players who play hard. They just make stupid decisions and don’t do what the coaches tell them to do. Hopefully Huggs finds a way to fix it. If he does, we still have a team that can compete and win games. But at this point, one has to question if this team will ever “get it” and start playing up to their potential.
Player of the Week: Aaric Murray: 28 points, 17 rebounds, 2 blocks in 52 minutes.
He was the catalyst that got our offense moving and kept the game from getting out of hand early against Kansas. He’s a beast when he wants to be, and might be our biggest threat from the outside right now.
- Saturday 2/2 @ Texas Tech
- Monday 2/4 vs. Texas
We got a little break in the schedule this week after a pretty rough stretch. Texas Tech is also 2-5 in the Big 12 (9-9 overall) and only has one good win on their record- a 56-51 win over Iowa State two weeks ago. This game is a tossup. Again, we have the talent to win but will we have the execution in Lubbock? I sure hope so- we need to exact some revenge for the football team’s trip to Lubbock last fall. Following that, we have our second home Big Monday game in a row- a rematch against Texas. We already beat them in overtime in Austin, hopefully we don’t need the extra period to win this time. This is another tossup- we should win, but will we execute? That seems to be the big question.
News and Notes
- Matt Humphrey, who began seeing more action over the past few games, reinjured his shoulder… a big blow to any hopes of the Mountaineers shooting better.