By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
It happened again.
Maybe it shouldn’t have, but it did, and it wasn’t just that West Virginia lost.
It was how they lost and how they could have won, maybe should have won.
But in the end, Baylor took down a 65-62 victory over the Mountaineers before a disappointed and disappointing crowd of 6,588 fans.
It ended with West Virginia in possession of the basketball and with them taking a shot to tie the game.
That’s as it should be.
What wasn’t as it should be was that it was a 3-point shot taken by, of all people, Juwan Staten, a player who has not made a 3-point shot in his career.
“Taking a shot you can’t make isn’t what you want,” Coach Bob Huggins would say after it was over.
It wasn’t what they were going for when they took possession of the ball after Pierre Jackson had made a pair of free throws to make it a 3-point game.
Staten, the point guard, brought the ball upcourt, seemingly far too slowly considering only 18 seconds were left.
They had a play set up.
“It’s like what we have run a lot. Everyone runs it,” Huggins said. “It’s a ball screen and if they switch, you go to the basket and score and you still have three or four seconds to go and then you can foul and you have a chance.
“If they are tight on everybody, you hope that they help. (Pierre) Jackson grabbed Sweat (Kevin Noreen). He just grabbed him and held onto him because I guess they were switching everything.
“If that’s the case, then you have to get it at the rim and score and then foul them. Of get it to the rim and get a three-point play.”
But Baylor had most everything covered. Certainly they weren’t at that stage going to let Kevin Noreen’s screen open up Eron Harris, as he had caught their attention by scoring a career-high 25 points.
So there was Staten, with the ball, trying to tie the game, the ball in his hands, nowhere to pass it and now the clock rushing toward zero.
He went up for a 3, which was sort of half blocked, half just discombobulated as it came out of his hand. It was high enough to go into the basket, just 15 feet short or so and as they scrambled for the loose ball the buzzer went off and WVU fell to 13-15 and now has to sweep its final three games to be better than .500 as it heads into the Big 12 Tournament, and considering they play at Kansas and Oklahoma they have no more chance to sweep than Staten’s 3 had of going into the basket.
This was a different WVU team that played this game, right from the opening tipoff when Huggins shuffled his starting lineup, going with Aaric Murray, who had such a rough go of it early that he wound up playing only four minutes all night, along with Matt Humphrey, Deniz Kilicli, Staten and Harris.
They also opened in a zone defense, which somewhat confused Baylor for a while, but most of all they put in a new offense and it worked and got them enough shots that hit 44.4 percent in the first half and led 34-29.
Harris was pumping in points and Terry Henderson came off the bench to hit a few baskets and even Volodymyr Gerun got some playing time, enough to contribute three points and a rebound.
As usual, though, things changed in the second half. Isaiah Austin took control on offense with 21 points and three assists and WVU had enough defensive breakdowns that there were consecutive wide open layups at one point.
Then there came the expected shooting drought, WVU going almost 12 minutes with one basket, hitting just three baskets in nearly 15 minutes.
They did hit some free throws to hang in there and Noreen gave them just an exceptional outing to go with Harris, especially down the stretch.
Noreen finished with 10 points and nine rebounds, six of them offensive and mostly of the hustle variety where he had to run the ball down and fight people for it.
In fact, on the next to last possession he grabbed a key offensive rebound off a Harris miss, got the ball back to Harris, who had a really good look, and missed again.
But none of it mattered, really, because at the end the score still was going against WVU.
“It’s still a loss,” Noreen said softly, a look of disdain on his face.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.