By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
At halftime of Saturday’s Big 12 matchup in the Coliseum West Virginia found itself locked in a tight battle, trailing No. 14 Oklahoma State, 35-33.
True, they had gotten off to a good start and seen a 7-point lead turn into an 8-point deficit at one point, but they had battled back and looked as though they might be able to put the home court advantage to use and maybe, finally, beat a team that was ahead of them in conference play.
By the time they got through making a fool of themselves through the second half, the Cowboys had marched off with a 73-57 victory before 10,038 fans who had more to cheer during a tight-wire act at halftime than they had to cheer once intermission was over.
Once again, the Mountaineers came unglued in the second half. They were outscored, 38-24, making only six field goals in the final 20 minutes.
In fact considering that they started the game making five of their first nine shots, for the rest of the game they hit but 11 of 44, which 25 percent, leaving them shooting just 30.2 percent for the game.
You see that in rec leagues.
“It carried over from the first half. We couldn’t handle the pressure, whatever they were throwing at us, the 1-3-1, 2-2-1 sometimes,” said Kevin Noreen, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds in another solid, workmanlike performance that went for naught.
“That wasn’t because of them. It was because of us not keeping our heads in it. It wasn’t even a pressure type of press, not meant to turn the ball over. It was meant to slow you down. The way we turned the ball over was not acceptable.”
“It’s doesn’t seem like we compete as hard,” coach Bob Huggins would say. “What makes this is a hard game is you have to do the right thing all the time. When you are told a thousand times not to overrun the ball and you overrun the ball and they make another pass and you overrun the ball again, they end up 5 on 3 with a layup, it beats you.
“They have been told, I put them on the treadmill and they continue to do the same thing. There is going to come a time when you figure out that is not the right thing to do.”
That time has not yet come and now only four games remain in the regular season and they will be underdogs in each, which probably means that they will finish with a sub-.500 record for the regular season and probably the year.
They currently are 13-14 and 6-8 in the Big 12 and seem to be getting worse, not better.
“The thing we should be doing is getting hungrier from these losses. That should be motivation to play harder and practice harder,” Noreen said.
“Huggs always tells us about his team in Cincinnati, how you wouldn’t want to be the team that would play them after a loss. I don’t think he ever lost three games in a row there.”
West Virginia has already lost three in a row this season and now has lost two straight with the next game on Wednesday against Baylor.
Noreen understands that this has been a team that has shot poorly, passed poorly and hasn’t rebounded as well as many WVU teams do.
He says that isn’t really what’s killing them.
“Huggs has had teams in the past that can’t shoot, can’t score, but that’s when they run offense. My first year here was like that with Joe and Cam. We ran offense and wore the other team down,” he said.
This team, however, doesn’t know the offense and therefore can’t run it.
More important, though, it isn’t hammering away at games from start to finish.
“The truth is, we got beat to loose balls, we got beat to balls going out of bounds and we have gotten beat to everything. We have a whole bunch of guys standing around and watching,” Huggins said.
Especially in the second half when things begin to go badly.
And that’s what hurts the most, for you can overlook a lack of ability if you are playing your hardest, but that just hasn’t been the case.
While Oklahoma State put five players in double figures, led by Le’Bryan Nash and Markel Brown with 16 points each, WVU managed to get 11 points from Aaric Murray and 10 from Humphrey as their leading scorers.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.