The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

February 28, 2014

What is wrong with WVU’s basketball team?

MORGANTOWN — The most popular topic of conversation around town these days seems to narrow itself down to one topic and that simply is:

“What’s wrong with West Virginia University’s men’s basketball team?”

Just when it appeared the Mountaineers had put it together and were making a run that would take them into the NCAA Tournament, they slipped on the ice and wound up lying face down in the gutter.

Three consecutive double-figure losses were heaped one upon the next, and everyone had a reason of his own as to what was wrong, but no one really could agree on anything.

It was defense. It was offense. It was a lack of an inside game. It was Terry Henderson’s illness.

They blamed it on everyone but Joe DeForest.

Even the Mountaineers themselves could not settle on a reason.

Ask guard Juwan Staten, who scored 19 points with four assists, in the aftermath of Wednesday night’s 83-66 loss at Iowa State, and this was what you got:

“You could talk about the arenas we’re playing in, the players we’re playing against, us not making shots, us getting outrebounded, being young … you can talk about all of that, but the main thing is not playing defense,” he said.

“And when you don’t play defense, you have to outscore teams. We’re a team that’s very dangerous when we’re hot, but when we’re cold we’re not that good.”

Then you ask Eron Harris, who suffered through a tough night with 15 points and just 4-for-16 shooting while missing all five of his 3-point tries, why all year WVU has been able to rally from some rather large deficits only to fail to get by and take the lead.

 “We have to be able to stop them,” he said. “Specifically, we have to be able to stop them on the inside … and that includes all of us, not just the post players. That’s the answer to that question.”

Defense and defense came the answers from Staten and Harris.

How about the coach, Bob Huggins?

“We didn’t get stops, and we didn’t make any shots,” he said, covering the entire spectrum from defense to offense.

And the fact of the matter was that Huggins was right … and right.

They didn’t get and stops on defense and they couldn’t have thrown a basketball into Mon River from the Star City Bridge, and that is not a formula for victory.

Harris and Gary Browne were the main culprits. Harris may have had an excuse, even though he opted not to take it, but the Iowa State crowd was on him unmercifully from the second he was introduced until the final buzzer went off.

But Browne had no excuse. He missed layups. He missed jumpers. He missed 3s where the closest person to him wearing Iowa State colors was sitting in the stands.

“You can’t be any more open than Gary was on some of those shots. That’s how wide open Nate (Adrian) was in the Baylor game. We have to make wide-open shots,” Huggins said.

WVU shot 35.8 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3 with 5-of-20 … but Browne and Harris combined for 1-of-10 3s and 5-of-23 field goals, which is 21.5 percent shooting.

But in the end it doesn’t matter how you shoot when you play defense the way WVU is playing it.

“We really need to pick up our defense,” Staten said. “If we can pick up our defense and keep teams from scoring, I really feel we can tough some of these games out. We’re coming down and fighting hard to score a basket and coming down and giving up two early in the shot clock; you just can’t win like that.”

Asked what the team was doing wrong on defense, and Staten ran through a litany of problems.

“There’s a lot things we’re not doing on defense. We’re not guarding the ball well. We’re not making rotations, giving up a lot of tick-tack fouls … a lot of things we’ve been told about, a lot of things we concentrate on in practice that just is not translating into the games,” he said.

“Some games we come out and look great and think we’re ready to move forward, then we come out with no energy and can’t get to the ball, can’t grab a rebound. I don’t know what that is. We work on it in practice but during a game coaches can’t stop play and put someone on a treadmill when they don’t hustle back or don’t fight for a rebound.

“The minute you take a minute off, that’s when you give up a basket, and that’s what we do. I think we take too many minutes off.”

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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