Foul Effort Continues To Plague WVU
West Virginia has given a new meaning to the term “foul trouble.”
Normally, that means you are committing a lot of fouls, getting your best players in trouble and giving up free points.
The way West Virginia has redefined the term is that they are in foul trouble when it is the team going to the free throw to shoot free throws and, as it seems to do every game, it came back to haunt them again on Monday night in Texas as the Mountaineers lost to the Longhorns, 67-57.
West Virginia, who has had trouble hitting free throws all season, reached a new low in ineptitude by making only 10 of 21 (48%) from the free throw line. They missed the front end of four one and ones along the way.
“You can’t go 10 of 21 from the free throw line,” Coach Bob Huggins said. “Add in missed front ends of one and ones and it’s like 10 for 30. You go three for 11 from three. You can’t miss shots from two feet from the basket. We do all of that.
“You hold people to around 60 points and you should win. We’re doing that and we can’t score more than 60 points.”
West Virginia has scored 65 or fewer points in the last six games and in five them they didn’t score more than 60 points.
This was its fifth loss in those six games and its sixth consecutive Big 12 road loss.
It’s almost as if the ghost of Dean Smith were looking over Huggins shoulder, for since he tied the North Carolina legend with 879 wins he has lost to two of the lower level Big 12 teams.
When they last played against Texas at home on January 20, it was laugh-a-thon that ended with walk-on Spencer Macke being carried off the court after hitting his first career 3-pointer in a 96-57 victory. That is a 39-point win at home turned into a 10-point loss on the road.
“They’re not the same guys,” Huggins said of his team. “I told them in there about the time Kobe put in. I told them Larry Bird worked four hours a day. I know what Michael [Jordan] did. I was in his camp and saw what he did, so don’t sit in there and tell me you aspire to be a pro. That’s a joke.”
Huggins indicated after losing to Oklahoma that the something had changed with his team.
“We got a bunch of people who found other things more important in their lives than being in the gym. That doesn’t help you,” Huggins continued. “We’re not the same in film study. We’re not the same when we go through the other team’s offense. There’s not guys asking questions.”
Then, just to rub salt in the wound, they were beaten by a Texas team that had only eight healthy scholarship players and probably didn’t need all of them as three players – Andrew Jones (22 points) , Courtney Ramey (21) and Matt Coleman III (13) scored one fewer point with 56 than the hale and healthy Mountaineer roster accounted for.
This loss surely will drop WVU from the Top 25 next week and leaves it with a 7-8 Big 12 record with nothing of memories about the good start that had it in line for a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament just a couple of weeks ago.
As bad as the free throw shooting was for the Mountaineers, their defense may have been worse, as Texas shot 52.4 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from 3-point range with Jones scoring on five of nine and Ramey on three of five.
Somehow, despite all of this WVU, was within seven points with the ball and 3:32 to play, but then there were a series of inexplicable events that only happen to teams that are cursed.
First Texas missed two shots on one possession, but each shot was so bad it went to one of its own players who wasn’t even looking to rebound, allowing the Longhorns to run more clock.
Then, with 2:18 left, WVU was turning the defensive pressure up, got Texas to dribble the ball off its foot, the ball rolling into the corner when Ramey picked it up, threw up a prayer that went in and was fouled, laughing his way to the free throw line.
Naturally, at the other end, the ball went off Emmitt Matthews Jr.’s knee and not to a WVU player but out of bounds.
That is the way the ball has been bouncing these days, but it is not a function of blind luck but more of the karma being thrown off by the teams, Texas now with three straight wins and believing everything it will do will work out right and WVU feeling the world is against them.
If there was anything positive out of this it was that Oscar Tshiebwe bounced back from the worst game of his young career last time out to score 14 points with six rebounds and Derek Culver did finish 12 points but that could not offset his two for eight effort from the free throw line.
“He’s a mess right now. I had him straightened out. They looked good. He was making free throws. Then you go back to doing what you were doing before,” Huggins said.