It started with passion and ended with passion.
In between West Virginia played again like it cared not a bit about whether it won or lost.
The result was the Mountaineers lost their sixth straight game and seventh in eight games, 83-74, to Iowa State before a crowd announced at 9,413 fans, many of whom were long gone by the time the game ended and quite a few of whom were never there.
The Senior Day loss was WVU’s sixth straight, their longest losing streak since they lost nine in a row in Gale Catlett’s final season, 2002, and left them with a 13-18 record, 6-12 in the Big 12. That will put them against Texas Tech at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the conference tournament in Kansas City.
If the Mountaineers win they would play No. 1 seed Kansas, which is probably not what they were wishing for.
The early passion came when Deniz Kilicli walked down the carpet with his family, who had come all the way from Turkey to see him play in college for the first time after seldom having missed a game at home.
The crowd’s welcome was long and loud and as they walked down the carpet for the final time, not only was Kilicli waving to them but so was his white-haired, goateed father.
Kilicli met Huggins at the end of the carpet and the two put their arms around each other. This was more than a hug. It was an embrace, a warm, caring embrace.
And a silent one.
“I couldn’t say anything,” Kilicli allowed. “He couldn’t either. It was such a good thing, such a sad thing, the last time to be on the carpet. I was overwhelmed.”
So were the Mountaineers when play started.
Iowa State, which leads the nation in 3-point field goals, was throwing in 3s like were layups, one after another.
By halftime they had hit 8 of 13 of them and led 44-20 over WVU.
The one thing WVU had to talk about was the most memorable move of Kilicli’s career, an inside spin to the right, which is not the way he often goes and then a thunderous dunk that shook the Coliseum.
“That wasn’t something I thought about. It just happened,” Kilicli said.
It was the only thing that happened that made any Mountaineer fan cheer, sort of a birthday gift for school president Jim Clements, who was at courtside celebrating with his family.
“We didn’t run any offense in the first half. Deniz is trying to win, but when he goes and stands on the block they know where he’s going to be. We have to move him; in the second half we back screened for him and got shots in space.”
Something magical happened in the second half and WVU roared back, erasing what would become a 24-point lead and narrowing it to 4.
“We played,” Huggins said. “Earlier in the year, we may have not played that hard in the second half after playing that poorly in the first half.”
This team didn’t quit, even though it was about to give up 83 or more points in three straight games and for the seventh time this season, a staggering total considering that in Huggins’ first two years here didn’t allow 80 points in any game, save for one double-overtime matchup with Oklahoma.
And remember, this is the season when very few teams are scoring 80 points.
Guard Jabarie Hinds, who has been a huge disappointment with his offensive production and shooting, got hot and sparked a 10-point run, Aaric Murray came up with a number of big blocks and points, the defense got tough and force a couple of steals that turned into layups that brought the Mountaineers back.
Hinds scored 8 points in that 10-point run and finished with as WVU’s top scorer with 19.
But they could not make up for the first half.
“If we can play two halves like we play the second half we can play with anyone,” said freshman guard Eron Harris, who finished with 11 points, five assists and two steals.
“Our mindset is that we’re down 20 right from the beginning and we have to fight back,” he continued.
In truth, Harris is part to blame for that. His first halves have been troublesome and this was no different, going 2 for 8 in the half, 1 for 5 from 3-point range.
“I’ve got to be a better first-half player,” Harris admitted.
And so it was that the Mountaineers scored a moral victory by fighting back but there is no column for moral victories in the standings.
From here on out it would appear it’s one loss and the season is over for them, unless they can pull off a miracle run and win the Big 12 Tournament.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.
WVU’s poor start brings sixth straight loss
It started with passion and ended with passion.
Fairmont Senior closes out East Fairmont for Section 1 title: PHOTOS
When they cut down the nets Friday night at the Woody Williams Armory, the Fairmont Senior Polar Bears were the ones holding the scissors.
Each player took home a piece of the twine, a small memento from a 59-51 victory over East Fairmont in the Section 1 championship game.
Cooper leads FSU past Bobcats, 70-62
Brendan Cooper played liked a first-team all-league selection even though he strangely wasn't, and Chase Morgan did what he does best in the game's final 1:18 – hit shots.
The result was a 70-62 Fairmont State victory over fifth-seeded West Virginia Wesleyan Friday evening in the quarterfinals of the Mountain East Conference Men's Basketball Tournament at the Charleston Civic Center.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Buie returns to WVU after a year away
It’s nearly every little boy’s dream to become a college football athlete, to play in a stadium before 60,000, 70,000, 100,000 fans, to wear the colors of a university proudly. There are cheerleaders and groupies; there’s your name in headlines, your picture in the newspapers.
WVU looks to back up Huggins’ prediction
It was after Kansas defeated West Virginia University, 83-69, a month ago in Lawrence, Bob Huggins reached into his deep library of inspirational sayings and came out with one from Abe Lemons, of all people, the one-time Texas coach who never was at a loss for words.
TCU tough matchup for WVU women
West Virginia University women’s basketball coach Mike Carey is trying to find a happy balance now for his team as it enters its second season, the Big 12 Tournament.
West Liberty, Glenville, Charleston advance to MEC semi-final
Charleston out-lasted Wheeling Jesuit, 91-85, in overtime in the first quarterfinal of the Mountain East Conference Tournament presented by GoMart on Friday afternoon.
Andre Harris, who finished with a game-high 22 points, picked up a steal and then converted a traditional three-point play to put Wheeling Jesuit up 76-73 with :21 seconds left.
5 memorable college hoops tourney buzzer beaters
It's March, which means the NCAA Tournament is just around the corner. But before March Madness takes hold, the conference tournaments, which get under way this week, often provide their own share of exciting finishes. Here are five memorable buzzer beaters from conference tournament play.
Fairmont Senior bullies Ritchie County to claim regional title: PHOTOS
While remnants of a winter storm remained outside of the Woody Williams Armory, No. 1 Fairmont Senior was on fire inside, beating Ritchie County, 69-31, for the Region I title.
It was business as usual for Fairmont Senior, which will advance to the state tournament beginning next Wednesday in Charleston.
North Marion tops Webster, 76-48
North Marion rebounded from a sectional championship loss to beat Webster County, 76-48, on the road Thursday night to punch its ticket to the state tournament.
The Lady Huskies, which had four of their five starters in double figures, used a team effort to get the win.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Huggins just wants WVU to compete
In the end, with Bob Huggins, they count victories and losses, and he has always been one to pile up the victories while keeping the losses to a minimum, at least until the last two seasons at West Virginia University.
And, in the end, when he tries to analyze why the losses have come rather than the victories, he comes to understand that he just doesn’t have the manpower to compete.
- More Sports Headlines
- Fairmont Senior closes out East Fairmont for Section 1 title: PHOTOS