The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

December 7, 2012

Mountaineers find something in win

MORGANTOWN — To be totally honest, as this uncertain West Virginia University basketball season began to unwind and coach Bob Huggins continued to offer nothing but a positive outlook upon something that looked more and more like a negative situation, you wondered what he knew that no one else did.

His team hadn’t really displayed anything that looked hopeful. It’s most visible player, Deniz Kilicli, was struggling. The offense was as uncertain as the rotation, Huggins seemingly feeling his way like a movie goer trying to find a seat after just walking into a darkened theater.

Aaric Murray and Juwan Staten, the two transfers who were supposed to make an immediate impact, had been neither fish nor fowl, trying to find their niche both on the offensive and defensive ends.

The team played hard, of that there was no doubt, but when they shot the basketball it went spinning off in crazy directions, seldom toward the rim at which they were aiming.

But if life teaches you anything, it is that success breeds success and there is no substitute for experience, so it seemed to be pure folly to doubt Huggins when he said his team would come together and become a force.

It well could be that is the result of what transpired in the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum on Wednesday night, when the Mountaineers discovered themselves in a 69-59 victory over in-state rival Marshall.

“We came together as a family,” is the way senior Deniz Kilicli explained it. “That is important. Ugly stuff happened. There were times we couldn’t score, but we kept executing. We kept playing through plays. It’s a rivalry game, and players were able to play through their emotions.”

This game, hotly contested and one that nearly erupted into a brawl in its closing minutes, points toward being the turning point in the season for the Mountaineers, the game in which they found a spark, a reason for the long hours on the treadmill and for enduring the language that flowed so freely from Huggins’ mouth during practice.

The West Virginia players came out of the game feeling differently about themselves and their season than they had at any time earlier in the season in the wake of an opening-day disaster at Gonzaga and maybe even a bigger flop at the Old Spice Classic when they lost a pair of games without providing much in the way of competition.

This time they had faced a challenge, played the kind of basketball they are going to have to play by hammering on the inside, which negated the fact they still can’t shoot, and claimed not only the victory but an identity.

“We came together and said, ‘You know what, we’re not losing this game,’” Kilicli said. “They tried everything. They tried playing hard. They tried shooting the ball well, and they couldn’t. They tried talking trash, and that didn’t work either.”

No, West Virginia kept hammering away at them despite the inability to hit shots from outside. This, it must be recalled, is a team that had recorded a 3-point goal in 428 consecutive games, but it wasn’t until 31 minutes and 17 seconds had expired in the game before Jabarie Hinds hit the first — and only — 3-point shot of the game.

What made it so interesting was the WVU wasn’t even launching 3s, taking just six all evening.

That is quite a difference from the team that threw up 26 3s in the opener against Gonzaga — and made 3 of them.

And the assist on Hinds’ 3, one of only eight assists WVU would have in the game, came from Kilicli, who again gave a hint of how this team is learning where to go and what to do on the court each day in explaining how it came about.

“Huggs always says, ‘Go to the middle and good things happen.’ We try to keep people out of the middle. I thought, ‘All right, I’m going to try to go to the middle and see what happens.’ Something good happened,” he said.

The timing of these revelations could not be better, for WVU already has three losses and is unranked and needs to show a lot of improvement before it gets into conference play if it is to put together a 20-victory season and qualify for the NCAAs.

The schedule turns tough here, beginning Saturday when unbeaten Virginia Tech, a longtime rival who figures to be a regular on the schedule from here on out, comes to the Coliseum with its high-scoring game and then, after Duquesne on the road Tuesday, WVU plays the highlight game of the season.

The Mountaineers travel to Brooklyn, N.Y., next Saturday to play in the new arena there against one of their most popular and successful coaches in John Beilein, who brought them the Pittsnogle-Gansey-Ruoff teams.

He is unbeaten and ranked third in the nation at Michigan now and a victory there would be a huge win on the Mountaineers’ postseason resume.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • Arrest warrant out for WVU recruit

    West Virginia University’s newest men’s basketball recruit, Tarik Phillip, has an order out for his arrest in North Carolina, according to a story in The Dominion-Post, which said three Gaston County Magistrate office spokespersons confirmed.

    April 20, 2014

  • WVU baseball powers past Oklahoma, 9-5

    The WVU baseball team tied a season high with 18 hits to defeat Oklahoma, 9-5, on Saturday afternoon at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The win gives the Mountaineers their second Big 12 series win of the season and improves the overall record to 19-16 and 4-7 in conference play. Oklahoma drops to 25-16 overall and 5-7 in Big 12 play.

    April 20, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules

    At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.

    April 18, 2014

  • Means, WVU baseball shut out Oklahoma

    Junior left-hander John Means of the WVU baseball team threw eight shutout innings and the Mountaineers had a five-run first inning en route to a 7-0 victory over Oklahoma on Thursday evening at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The Mountaineers (18-15, 3-6 Big 12) broke a six-game Big 12 losing streak after being swept by TCU and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weekends. WVU had 16 hits and did not make an error for the second-straight game.

    April 18, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Dr. Graber disagrees with Gee’s stance on Turnbull firing

    Dr. Stephen Graber, an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is among the latest WVU teachers to deplore Oliver Luck’s firing of veteran wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.
    He raised some significant questions about that issue last Monday in a meeting of the WVU Faculty Senate.

    April 18, 2014

  • Huggins signs junior college guard

    Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
    Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.

    April 17, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Comparing pay of coaches and professors

    Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
    • A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.

    April 17, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete

    The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
    Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

    April 16, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos