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March 13, 2013

FURFARI COLUMN: Long skid might just end

MORGANTOWN — The West Virginia University men’s basketball team would seem to have a very good chance of ending its six-game losing streak when it plays in the Big 12 Conference Tournament.

The eighth-seeded Mountaineers, who finished the regular season with a 13-18 overall record, will meet ninth-seeded Texas Tech (10-19 overall) in a first-round game at 7 p.m. today at Kansas City, Mo.

West Virginia swept Texas Tech in both regular-season meetings. The scores were 77-61 at Lubbock, Texas, on Feb. 2, and 66-64 on Feb. 16 at the WVU Coliseum.

In conference games, the Mountaineers finished with a 6-12 record, and the Red Raiders were 3-15 in the league’s final standings.

Last Saturday’s sixth consecutive loss, 83-74 to Iowa State, marked the longest skid in Bob Huggins’ outstanding 31-year coaching career. It was one of WVU’s best performances this year, despite a horrible first half.

Huggins’ players trailed by 27 points early in the second half, but they battled back to within four points late in the contest.

The 23-point cutback rally was the Gold and Blue’s biggest of the season. This is Huggins’ first losing campaign in his six years at his alma mater.

“It’s never too late,” Huggins said in hoping for a turnaround in postseason play. He had been told that the 1965 WVU men’s team went into its last regular-season finale after an 11-14 record and exploded for a 127-73 win over Virginia Tech at the old Field House, then upset its way through the Southern Conference Championship.

That memorable triumph snapped a six-game losing streak for the 1965 team.

The WVU men’s nine-year record of consecutive postseason tournament appearances obviously is in jeopardy.

  No fewer than five Mountaineer scorers finished in double digits against Iowa State, which is a rarity for WVU this year. The Cyclones also had five scorers with 10 or more points each.

Freshman Eron Harris, who had 11 points, has hit double figures in 13 of his best 16 games. He leads the team in scoring with 9.9 points per game.

Deniz Kilicli, senior forward playing his last home game of his career, was limited to just four points. But he’s No. 2 in scoring for the regular season with an average of 8.9 per game.

As a team, the Mountaineers shot 46.9 percent from the field (28-66). Iowa State made 26 of 46 for 56.5 percent.

The Cyclones built a 44-20 lead in the first half. But West Virginia outscored them by 54-39 in the second half.

So the Mountaineers at least go into today’s tournament game against Texas Tech coming off a hot regular-season shooting spree.

o o o o o o

Congratulations go out to the WVU rifle team for capturing the school’s 15th NCAA national championship. It’s the first since 2009.

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