By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
The time for wishing and hoping is over.
Reality has set in.
This is a bad West Virginia University basketball team.
They’ve had their chances and they haven’t been able to take advantage of them.
They get leads, double-figure leads, but none is big enough.
One was 18 points earlier this year. It disappeared.
The Mountaineers led by 13 over Oklahoma State on Saturday.
They might as well have trailed by 13. They lost, 80-66.
They had no chance to win.
That isn’t really what’s important. You can normally root for a team that loses if it is your team because you can find something loveable about it, a personality, a sense that it might grow into something better.
This team has no persona. It is, as coach Bob Huggins has said, a group of likeable kids, yes, but they have no flair and, more important, they are not in any way improving as the season goes on.
You look for that, you listen for Huggins, who has the wisdom of more than a quarter of century coaching, to tell you he sees this aspect of their game or that aspect of their game getting better.
He hasn’t said it, and it wasn’t forthcoming after this defeat.
What was said was more of the same old broken record that’s been playing since the Day 1.
How many times this year have we heard Huggins begin an answer to a question with this phrase: “I’ve never had teams that … ”
Over and over it comes out, that he hasn’t had a team that can’t do this or can’t do that, that can’t run a play or make a layup.
Here it was in this disaster:
“I’ve never had teams that after a timeout come out and don’t know what they’re doing, right after you showed them. It is guys who have played 19 games now this year, 30-some games last year. They played 50 games.”
And they come out of a timeout and don’t know what to do.
It isn’t like teams are confusing them.
Oklahoma State changed this game by going to a 2-3 zone.
You see 2-3 zones in biddy basketball. This was simple 2-3 zone, not a matchup, not a trapping zone.
WVU couldn’t handle it.
“The frustrating thing is I can’t run a set because they don’t know what they are doing. It’s mind boggling. They do it in practice. All of a sudden the game comes and they forget everything,” Huggins said.
You want to blame it on youth, for this is a young team. You want to blame it on the inexperience at this level, but Huggins can’t buy that.
“It’s people you wouldn’t think sometimes,” he said.
That’s the veteran players, the ones who should know better, but they have been as guilty as the least experienced of the freshmen.
Some teams can shoot opponents out of their zone defenses. Not this team.
In truth, it had one of its better shooting days in this game, finished with a shooting percentage that was better than 40 percent.
That translated into just 66 points, and you don’t win very many basketball games with 66 points, not when you give up 50 points on 3-point shots and free throws alone.
WVU left 3-point shooters open all day long, shooters they knew could make 3-point shots … and that is just a sin in the way Huggins coaches basketball.
But as bad is the fact that his shooters, save for the emerging star who is Eron Harris, can’t make a shot … not a 3 and not a 2.
Harris, the freshman who now has four consecutive double-figure games, scored 17 and hit 5 of 8 from 3-point range, the kind of shooting accuracy that would qualify him for WVU’s acclaimed rifle team.
The rest of the team made 2 of 11 3-point shots.
Two of 11, that coming a day after some guy came out of the stands at an NBA game and threw a hook shot in from half court for $75,000.
One try. Bingo!
The shame about what happened in this game is that finally, it appears, the likeable senior Deniz Kilicli finally has gotten his game together, put together a solid performance before fouling out with six and a half minutes to play, but it mattered not one bit.
Nothing seems to matter any longer, and that is probably why Huggins closed his post-game radio show with this pronouncement.
“I feel like going home and going to bed and pulling the covers over my head.”
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.