By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
As they always do before a game, West Virginia University coach Bob Huggins and his staff get together and talk about the team they are playing, analyzing what they do well and where they are vulnerable and what they expect to come out of the game.
“This is not a great perimeter-shooting team we played,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “This is a team who the coaches told me before the game the first team to 50 will win the game and they scored (79) on us.”
That’s right, Huggins’ slumping Mountaineers lost their fourth game in the last five, not in the kind of game anyone expected but in complete blowout fashion, 79-52, in Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind.
The loss of the final non-conference game of the season played on national television dropped WVU to 8-9 for the season and leaves their hopes for a spot in post-season play in severe jeopardy, almost certainly needing either a miracle or a run in the conference tournament.
This is the latest in a season WVU has been beneath .500 since 2002 when the Mountaineers were 7-8 on Jan. 16, 2002 following a loss at Rutgers. That was Gale Catlett’s final year coaching the Mountaineers.
“We don’t compete,” said a disappointed, muted Huggins following the game. “We shot the ball terrible, but that should not stop us from guarding. It shouldn’t stop us from rebounding, and it sure doesn’t cause you to throw the ball away.”
Yet they did all of that.
The shooting was as atrocious as it has been all season. They came into the game ranked 312th in the nation in shooting at 39.7 percent, and they couldn’t match that level of proficiency, shooting just 29 percent for the game.
And that was only part of it.
West Virginia had 17 turnovers and six assists, giving up 22 points off turnovers.
And Huggins was hardly impressed by the 15 points his team collected off Purdue turnovers.
“Let’s face it; most of them came when the game was over,” he noted.
Purdue dominated inside, scoring 36 points in the paint, and had eight more second-chance points than did West Virginia.
“We took bad shots. We turned the ball over, really for no reason,” Huggins said.
Things started well for WVU in the game. Matt Humphrey, getting a start after a big final 10 minutes against Iowa State, hit a 3 and WVU led, 7-6, before the bottom fell through.
A couple of bad fouls by Humphrey got his hand out of the game and Purdue went to work, Anthony Johnson hitting three straight baskets and senior D.J. Byrd hitting a rather fortunate 3 which happened to bank in.
It counted even though he did not call the bank.
After that, why not hit another 3, which Byrd did, and the rout was on.
Byrd would finish with a game-high 17 points, even though he was averaging only 10.1 coming in, and had been having trouble with his 3-point game.
WVU allowed him to hit 4 of 6 of his 3s, while as a team Purdue would can 8 of 11.
West Virginia’s “Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” made only 3 of 18 3-point shots.
Huggins even gave Volodymyr Gerun, his Ukranian forward with a reputation as a good shot, playing time in an effort to get things going.
Gerun went 0-for-5 shooting, four of them from 3-point range.
“At the end of the half I put Voldy in hoping he could make a shot,” Huggins said. “Everyone says, ‘Why don’t you play Voldy?’”
So he put in a play for him, one where the point guard drives at the defender, then throws the ball back to Gerun.
The only trouble was, he didn’t throw it back.
“He drives in, then jumps up in the air, throws a pass that gets intercepted and they score,” Huggins said. “That wasn’t what I said to do.”
Little that was done was what Huggins said to do, and now WVU returns home to get ready to face TCU at the Coliseum on Wednesday. TCU is winless in the Big 12.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.