The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

January 13, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN- Mountaineers still need to ripen before they win big games

MORGANTOWN — The turnaround was a quick one, from Saturday to Monday.

Normally, you’d say no sweat, these are college players and they’ll get their legs back, even if Bob Huggins had another three-hour battlerama of practice planned for Sunday.

But it wasn’t the legs you worried about on this West Virginia team.

It was the minds and the hearts after Oklahoma State had stolen a 73-72 victory on Saturday night in as tense and exciting a game as you will see this year.

True, guard Terry Henderson had contributed his best game ever as a Mountaineer, a 21-point effort with six rebounds, four assists and three blocks. And true, Juwan Staten turned in another spectacular performance with 20 points, following a 25-point outburst against TCU.

Staten’s game was good enough to have someone mention to Huggins that Staten may have proved himself to be among the Big 12’s best, playing step for step with the Cowboys’ Marcus Smart.

Unfortunately, he mentioned it in the shadow of defeat and Huggins wasn’t up much for personal victories.

“Who cares? We’re trying to win games,” Huggins answered. “I wish everybody else would follow suit sometimes. I told you … I told you and told you and told you, Staten has worked his tail off. He studies. He comes in to play. He doesn’t take practices off. I wish everybody else would do the same thing.”

On the surface it seems as though Huggins is being a bit too hard on his team. It has battled hard in games, coming up short far more than anyone would like.

Effort doesn’t seem to be the problem, not after seeing them come from behind against Wisconsin, against Missouri, against Marshall and not after seeing them nearly upset Oklahoma State in a game in which they were a half dozen points the underdog.

Huggins does note that his freshmen still are learning how to win at the college level and that while they feel they are giving all that they have, there is something left over or left out.      

It is almost something you can’t even put a finger on and, because of that, fixing it takes time, for it comes more with experience than anything else.

"Honestly, I think we have too many guys who play to the competition level instead of going and trying to play every play and playing every play as hard as you can play and concentrate as hard as you can concentrate on every play,” Huggins said.

You see this all too often in sports, teams that have to ripen like fruit on a tree before they can be picked to win.

It’s not only true in the college game, but also professionally. It was evident with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who slowly assembled pieces, saw them come together this past year to put together a winning season and reach the playoffs, but who still need to fill in the gaps and grow before they can become a championship club.

In college sports this is even more important, for you have players who are still learning how to play, let alone how to win. They come together from multiple backgrounds, have to first develop relationships with each other, build their own chemistry, then their confidence.

When that happens, it is almost like magic. You saw it with Bob Huggins’ Final Four team a few years back, the way Devin Ebanks and Da’Sean Butler and Kevin Jones merged — three kids from the same area yet worlds apart — to make a title run.

Huggins knows he has the same kind of ingredients with this West Virginia team. He also knows he can teach it to play basketball and that he can drive it into caring and having the necessary desire to want to win.

What he can’t do is move forward the hands of time and get them to the point that in the tight games they know how to make the right pass, can relax enough to hit the key shot or free throw, can be tough enough to grab the rebound that makes the difference between winning and losing.

“We care about each other as a team. All I can say is we are going to keep plugging at it and it will come together,” Staten said.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Summer, Alabama will be used to get WVU’s mind right

    The ink had barely dried on the final reports out of West Virginia’s spring practice when thoughts turned forward toward the lazy, hazy days of late summer, days that will bring us into football season with a game that can either change the entire image of WVU football or sour it even further.

    April 21, 2014

  • Arrest warrant out for WVU recruit

    West Virginia University’s newest men’s basketball recruit, Tarik Phillip, has an order out for his arrest in North Carolina, according to a story in The Dominion-Post, which said three Gaston County Magistrate office spokespersons confirmed.

    April 20, 2014

  • WVU baseball powers past Oklahoma, 9-5

    The WVU baseball team tied a season high with 18 hits to defeat Oklahoma, 9-5, on Saturday afternoon at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The win gives the Mountaineers their second Big 12 series win of the season and improves the overall record to 19-16 and 4-7 in conference play. Oklahoma drops to 25-16 overall and 5-7 in Big 12 play.

    April 20, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules

    At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.

    April 18, 2014

  • Means, WVU baseball shut out Oklahoma

    Junior left-hander John Means of the WVU baseball team threw eight shutout innings and the Mountaineers had a five-run first inning en route to a 7-0 victory over Oklahoma on Thursday evening at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The Mountaineers (18-15, 3-6 Big 12) broke a six-game Big 12 losing streak after being swept by TCU and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weekends. WVU had 16 hits and did not make an error for the second-straight game.

    April 18, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Dr. Graber disagrees with Gee’s stance on Turnbull firing

    Dr. Stephen Graber, an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is among the latest WVU teachers to deplore Oliver Luck’s firing of veteran wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.
    He raised some significant questions about that issue last Monday in a meeting of the WVU Faculty Senate.

    April 18, 2014

  • Huggins signs junior college guard

    Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
    Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.

    April 17, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Comparing pay of coaches and professors

    Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
    • A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.

    April 17, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos