Historically Bad End To Historically Bad Season
MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–It was a historically bad end to a historically bad season.
West Virginia suffered a 109-91 loss to Coastal Carolina Monday night in the second round of the CBI.
It was the most points the Mountaineers have ever given up in a home game in their 110 years of playing intercollegiate basketball.
The loss brought WVU’s season to a close with a 15-21 record. That’s the most single-season losses in program history, eclipsing an 8-20 mark in 2001-02.
“Everybody in that lockerroom is feeling like we let people down,” stated freshman guard Jordan McCabe with a hint of tears in his eyes. “It’s probably going to be the hardest thing to have to deal with and accept. Next season is going to be different.”
West Virginia had won three of its past four games to get momentum back on its side, but much of that slipped away in the season finale loss to Coastal.
“We got to the point where we had people believing in us,” added McCabe, who finished with 11 points and six assists in Monday’s loss. “The fear is we ruined that tonight. Right now we have to get back in the gym and get everybody on the same page and to get that buy-in we need to make the state proud again. With that said, we want to thank everybody for their support this year and let them know we’re going to be better, we’re going to be back.”
If West Virginia is going to return to past glory in the near future, head coach Bob Huggins said some things must change.
The Mountaineers appeared to get things back in order in the last month. After a 10-17 start to the season, they had won five of their past eight heading into Monday. But then WVU reverted to its bad old form against the Chanticleers. For Huggins, getting things turned around will start with improved effort and attitude.
“You show us every day whether you really want to be part of something special or whether you don’t,” Huggins said of his players. “A lot of them tell me every day they don’t want to do this because they don’t do the right things.
“I tried to help a bunch of guys this year, and it’s one of the worst seasons in the history of West Virginia basketball. I tried to help them, but in the end I hurt the whole,” he stated. “I’m not going to do that again. I’ve never done it before. I’ve gotten rid of my best player before because he was hurting everyone else, and we got much, much better.”
Huggins sat this year’s best player, freshman forward Derek Culver, for the entire first half against Coastal Carolina because he arrived late for Monday’s game. Culver was suspended for the first 10 games of the season because of similar tardiness, but he had seemingly followed the straight and narrow after that … until his latest transgression.
“This whole mess started because I compromised my principles,” stated Huggins, referring not just to Culver but also obviously the midseason dismissals of Esa Ahmad and Wes Harris. “You try to help people, but some people you can’t help. This country has gotten so into individual rights that they don’t give a damn about anyone else. You have 13 guys on the team. You can’t do everything in the world for one guy when it’s detrimental to 12 others.”
Huggins hopes next season will be different with the experience his young players gained this year, as well as a recruiting class that already features highly regarded prospects in guard Miles McBride and forward Oscar Tshiebwe.
“We’re adding a guy who has lost one game in three years (McBride of Cincinnati’s Archbishop Moeller) and another guy who is probably the best rebounder in high school basketball (McDonald’s All-American Tshiebwe),” noted WVU’s coach. “Obviously that’s going to help our talent pool.”
Huggins will bring in other new recruits, combining them with McBride, Tshiebwe and the young returnees in an attempt to rebuild a program that had gone to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in three of the previous four seasons.
“We’re a young team,” noted forward Emmitt Matthews, who was one of three freshmen in the starting lineup in the latter portion of the season. “Not every game is going to be perfect. We’re going to have ups and downs. We’re not where we want to be, at all, but tonight we were far from where we have been. We showed in the Big 12 Tournament with the wins over Oklahoma and Texas Tech that we can be a good team, but we have to be more consistent. That’s going to be key for us next season.”