Head Coach Says Everybody Is Better Than WVU Right Now
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – There was nothing correct about West Virginia’s defensive showing at Iowa State.
In fact, it’s a stretch to say it was a showing, considering the Mountaineers didn’t. WVU gave up 53 points in the first half – the second straight period it allowed at least 50 – and chased that with an equally awful second half that saw Iowa State pull away for a decisive 93-77 decision.
That’s three halves of basketball in which the Mountaineers allowed an average of 47.6 points. Sure, part of it is a tougher schedule. Kansas, Kentucky, Texas Tech and even the road trap at TCU. But not this one, not with Iowa State battling for the bottom of the Big 12 and sans a point guard averaging 11 points per game. But none of it mattered. The Cyclones dissected WVU’s defense like it almost wasn’t there.
ISU drove the ball, found passing lanes, scored in transition, scored in the paint, scored from three-point range and just plain scored period. There were alley oops over top the man look, easy opportunities on the break and ample chances to attack and pressure the rim while WVU simply allowed offensive players to drive. Bad rotations and inability to get back on defense only compounded the rest of the issues, and the results were as predictable as they were ugly.
West Virginia needed an advantage on the boards. That was a stalemate at 32-32. Nearly everything else belonged to the Cyclones in spades. Iowa State shot a sizzling 62 percent, hit more threes, hit more free throws, had a 43-32 edge in points in the paint. ISU averaged 12 turnovers entering. They finished with eight as the Mountaineers recorded just two steals. The Cyclones also had 20 assists on 36 buckets while the Mountaineers had just 14 on 29 makes with another sticky – and iffy – passing performance in a game in which it never led.
“We don’t guard,” head coach Bob Huggins said. “These guys have single-handedly destroyed Press Virginia. We can’t press anybody. We got 40 shots to their 28 in the second half. They make 16 and we make 14. You’re not gonna win. We miss point blank shot after point blank shot.
“Then we don’t get back. Our transition defense is as bad as any team I have ever had. We come out of the huddle – and I’ve never had that in 40 years – and we have guys not in the right position. I’ve never had that in 40 years.”
To put the loss in perspective, the Iowa State scored more than twice as many points versus West Virginia as they did in a 68-45 loss to Tennessee on Saturday. ISU lit up the Mountaineers just one game after scoring the fewest points in the history of the Hilton Coliseum and the fewest in program history since 1959. The major kicker that truly brings home just how bad it was? The 53 points allowed in the first half were the most allowed by the Mountaineers since 2001 versus Pepperdine.
So by that measure, it was indeed the worst defensive half of basketball during Huggins’ tenure, and it put a sort of exclamation point on what is now an alarming collapse. After a 15-1 start and No. 2 national ranking, the Mountaineers have lost five of six. The worst part of it is that different portions of play are breaking down, from the inability to hit a shot – WVU has shot just 33 percent from the floor, 23 from three-point range in the five losses – to what’s now three halves of awful defensive play.
“I have fought with them and fought with them and fought with them,” Huggins said. “We do not practice the way we have practiced in the past. We have to practice he way these guys practiced early in the year. I wish I could put a finger on what it is. I don’t know if we got to thinking we were better than we were or are, or I have a bunch of lazy guys.
“Everybody seems bouncier than us, more athletic than we are. Everybody is better than we are now. We don’t guard. We don’t have any pride in guarding. We won’t sustain anything. We are not tough enough to sustain anything. I usually have an answer and I don’t really have one. We have to somehow reach down deep and compete. It’s that simple.”
That’s heavy stuff from a veteran mentor. And the answers aren’t easy to come by. So buckle up. There’s a hot Kansas State team coming to Morgantown on Saturday followed by a road trip to No. 12 Oklahoma. This free fall might not be done, because in the Big 12 it isn’t going to get any easier.