“I watch tape and film because I can’t sleep; This stuff drives me crazy”
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – One can pardon Bob Huggins for a sudden severe case of insomnia.
West Virginia’s head coach has been unable to sleep because his No. 7 Mountaineers are seemingly sleepwalking through games. Such was the case in the second half during the defeat to Kansas, and that was magnified tenfold over the 40 minutes at TCU in which the Horned Frogs dominated play and picked up their first home win over a ranked team in almost 60 years.
The numbers are obvious: Fifty – count’em 50! – missed shots on 25-of-75 shooting, which includes 20 missed three-pointers on 27 attempts. Being outrebounded 46-40 and generating only 17 assists while not passing effectively. Just 10 points from a bench relied upon for much of the year. Among the results? A more than 9-minute stretch in which the Mountaineers not only failed to hit a field goal, but also couldn’t get to the line, managing just three free throws during a rather decisive 23-3 run that put Texas Christian ahead for good.
“I think its what we said before: When you miss shot after shot after shot after shot (it’s difficult),” Huggins said. “We stopped them seven consecutive times and we didn’t score in those seven times. We didn’t run offense. Bad game. I wish I had more answers than what I do. I watch tape and film because I can’t sleep. This stuff drives me crazy. We gotta find a way to get better.”
The problems for West Virginia are nearly team-wide. Dax Miles has connected on just 17-of-56 from the field over the last six games. That’s 30.4 percent coming off a 5-for-15 overall showing while missing seven of eight threes. Esa Ahmad and Lamont West combined for only two rebounds in 36 minutes of play, while Ahmad went 0-for-5 shooting. In his first action back since being disciplined for a poor attitude, Teddy Allen missed six of seven shots, but did hit all five free throws and grab five boards.
The result is that after a 15-1 start which included a national-best 15-game winning streak, the Mountaineers (16-4, 5-3) have lost three of four games while falling to 4-4 against the Top 30 in the RPI.
“It’s not about the game, it’s about the preparation for the game,” Huggins said. “Why does JC play well? JC prepares for the game. I don’t know man. They are good guys. Some of them, the commitment is not what we need it to be. We are going to get better because we are going to try to make them get better. But they have to want to.
“We wouldn’t run offense early, then after a timeout we started to run offense. Then we throw it into the cheerleaders. (Miles) is 2-for-15 (from 3-point range over the last two games). Why do you keep shooting them? It’s not only not going in, it’s not going over the rim. Why don’t you drive to the goal, or get it to somebody else?”
It goes back to the mantra of do what you do, don’t do what you don’t. West Virginia has gotten away from that for a bit, and it’s caused a midseason slump of sorts. Part of it might well be the return of Ahmad and how he has affected the flow of the team, combined with the involuntary playing time leave taken by Allen, who saw just five minutes each against Baylor and Texas Tech before not seeing the floor versus Kansas and Texas.
But the issues appear a touch deeper than that, and it’s starting to hit Huggins where it hurts in terms of the soul. What the answers are isn’t immediately clear. It’s likely that the Mountaineers will simply need to process the problems and hit a reset button of sorts in getting back to basics before Kentucky. The issue of Beetle Bolden’s aggravated groin is likely to remain a problem for some time, and Miles isn’t likely to shoot his way out of the slump.
WVU has to flesh out the formula, and get back to each individual player staying within himself to make the sum greater than the whole of its parts – because right now, those parts aren’t truly whole themselves. Get in the gym, take a reflective look and move forward with a full four days before the next contest.
“We have spent more time on offense than I have spent since I go the job here,” Huggins said. “We are not making shots. Their life seems to be wrapped around two things: girls and whether their jump shot is going in. If their girl is sour on them or the jumper isn’t going in…but it’s been that way for years. We are open, but we don’t pass it very well. They don’t see.”
Perhaps they will now, coach.