By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
This West Virginia University basketball team has sunk to such depths that Bob Huggins felt obligated to apologize to the people of the state following a devastating 79-52 loss on Saturday at Purdue.
“I apologize to our fans, to the people of the state of West Virginia,” said Huggins, who has spent a whole lot more time during his career celebrating 718 victories than he has spent trying to absorb defeats as ugly and embarrassing as this.
“This is totally unacceptable,” he continued. “This is not what we’re supposed to represent.”
Bob Huggins’ basketball teams are supposed be dominators, not dominated. They are supposed to play in-your-face defense, not simply ole a driving opponent much as a matador will ole a charging bull.
They are supposed to be precise in the offense, hard-nosed in their approach.
This team, which now stands at 8-9, is none of the above, and he knows it and is embarrassed by it.
“Hopefully the fans and people of this state have enough faith in me that I will fix it. I don’t know that I will fix it totally this year, but this is not going to be the norm,” he said.
That is a move away from a promise he made earlier this year, for then he vowed he would fix the problems this team was suffering, but he did not put a qualifier on it, did not offer doubt that it could be done this season.
But then he had no idea of how bad things would be when Gonzaga, a legitimate contender for the national championship, annihilated the Mountaineers in their opener.
Now he knows, and he feels like he’s been blindsided from within.
“I never saw it coming. I thought we would be OK in the Big 12. I didn’t see this coming,” he said.
And then he talked about.
“I’ve never had two seniors that their senior year didn’t really respond,” he said.
He didn’t mention names, but Deniz Kilicli is certainly one of them of whom he refers, Kilicli averaged 7.3 points and 4.3 rebounds a game, down badly from a year ago, and scored two points with two rebounds in six minutes on Saturday.
The other two seniors are Dominique Rutledge, who played only three minutes against Purdue, and Matt Humphrey, a transfer, who hit a quick 3 then completely came apart.
“Humphrey makes a 3 and then makes two of the dumbest fouls, just stupid fouls. Now he’s got two fouls and I have to take him out,” Huggins said.
But it has been more. Nothing – absolutely nothing – has gone the way it was anticipated.
“I didn’t think we’d turn it over with Jabarie Hinds and Gary Browne back with a year’s experience at point guard and we had Juwan Staten,” Huggins said.
So against Purdue there were six assists and 17 turnovers.
Nothing is working.
“We can’t run motion because no one will pass the freakin’ ball,” Huggins continued.
He noted one play that he laid out, a play were the officials were covered better than the passing options and the guard with the ball drove rather than pass.
Huggins is baffled, perplexed, mystified.
“I thought we’d be better. Guys like Keaton Miles seemed to be so much better than the year before. Aaron Brown, you expect guys like that to take a pretty good jump between their freshman and sophomore year,” Huggins said.
But about the only player on the team that has stepped forward is the freshman Eron Harris, who was back home in Indiana playing and who led WVU with 10 points and five rebounds and was charged with none of those 17 turnovers.
Huggins has called upon all his coaching experience to find a fix. He felt early on that his strength might be in his big players, but opted to go small as it would fit better with the Big 12 competition.
That was what he tried against a Purdue team that is unranked and not exactly the kind of team you expect to beat you by 30 points.
Yet, there it was.
“That was as listless an effort as anyone could possibly give,” Huggins said.
And still the heart of the Big 12 season remains.
As for Huggins?
“I’m going to go recruit, which obviously I need to do,” he said.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.