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March 19, 2013

FURFARI COLUMN- Last game caps entire season

MORGANTOWN — The West Virginia men’s basketball team’s final game of the year seemed to size up the entire 2012-13 season very well.

In losing by 71-69 on a tip-in by Texas Tech with just four-tenths of a second left, the Mountaineers lacked consistency. They played very well at times throughout the Big 12 Conference Tournament first-round contest only to fall short at the end.

That was typical in numerous games this year as WVU wound up with a disheartening 13-19 record, competing in the Big 12 for the first time.

The year-ending seven-game losing streak is the longest in legendary coach Bob Huggins’ great 31-year coaching career. This team also snapped the school’s nine-year postseason number of consecutive appearances. So were the 19 losses, his highest number ever in a year.

West Virginia suffered a school-high 20 losses in 2001-02, Gale Catlett’s final year as head coach. His 1998-99 team had the program’s only other 19-loss season.

You might want to know that WVU enjoyed just 18 20-or-more win seasons in the last 42 years of men’s basketball competition.

This year’s team gave up more points per game (68.1) than those of the past 10 years. Offensively, the team’s average number of points per game (66.1) is the lowest in Huggins’ six seasons as head coach here.

As a result, WVU finished without at least one player averaging double figures in scoring since World War II was raging in 1944.

Eron Harris, a fine freshman guard, was the team’s leading scorer at 9.8 points per game this year. He tallied 10 points or more in 12 of his last 17 games.

Last summer Coach Huggins told me that “we’re going to be better than we were last season — a lot better.”

Unfortunately, the Mountaineers were worse — a lot worse — than he anticipated.

He definitely did not see this disappointing season coming and places the blame upon himself — not his players. He had hoped he could “fix it” as the season progressed.

Unfortunately, that never happened.

Huggins, who has 713 career victories, ranks No. 3 among the nation’s active winningest Division 1 coaches. He coached in his 1,000th career game on Feb. 9 at TCU.

He said recently, “I’ve always kind of taken a lot of pride in the fact I could get guys to play hard. I could get guys to compete.

“People didn’t like to play against us because we played so hard and we competed so hard.

“We tried to rebound the ball. We just did the right things. For some reason, I haven’t been able to reach these guys, which is my fault.

“I should have found a way to reach them.”

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