Not Exactly A Hall of Fame Performance For WVU
West Virginia visited the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on its trip to New England prior to facing Rhode Island, but the Mountaineers didn’t use much of what they saw in dropping an 83-70 decision to the Rams on Sunday.
WVU (6-4) made just 32 percent of its shots from the field, including a hideous 5-of-20 (20 percent) from three-point range while turning the ball over 15 times. Defensively, crippled by the absence of Sagaba Konate, who again sat out the game due to recurring problems with his knee, the Mountaineers allowed the heretofore poor-shooting Rams to make nearly 47 percent of their own shots, including 29 percent from distance. That latter number is not great, but is is nearly 10 percentage points higher than what URI had been converting coming in to the game.
“They get six steals and we get one,” head coach Bob Huggins said following the game, “and we’re supposed to be the best pressing team in America. They shoot 45 percent, a team shooting 2o percent from three coming in.
“Our two starting guards are 1-of-14. That won’t win any games for you.”
Tight officiating and the inability to adjust to it, along with repeated reaches, hacks, bumps and bangs, made the contest a foul-fest. Each team was whistled for 28 fouls, resulting in three disqualifications and a good deal of lineup juggling by both head coaches. There were a total of 70 foul shots.
West Virginia got off to a slow start, and although it trailed for the entire first half, it managed to stay in contact with the front-running Rams. Rhode Island pushed out to a pair of six-point leads, and several others of five, but the Mountaineers managed to find answers, often from the free throw line, to keep from being blown out. Although it made just ten field goals in the opening half, it added 20 points on foul shots to cut the deficit to just two at 45-43 at the break.
WVU appeared to have steadied itself somewhat at the half, and after a short Rhode Island outburst to start the second period, the Mountaineers made their only strong move of the game. Sparked by five points from Lamont West, who awoke from a first half slumber to score five of his nine points, West Virginia took a pair of two-point leads, but those were short-lived as the Mountaineers’ play dissolved in a welter of poor defensive trips and unorganized offensive possessions.
Rhode Island repeatedly beat WVU’s defense down the court in transition, and set the tone with a run-out score off the opening tip. It book-ended that with several unopposed dunks and layups in the final minutes as the Mountaineers threw in the towel, failing to get back after multiple quick shots. In between, the Rams scored 44 points in the lane, more than offsetting West Virginia’s advantage from the free-throw line, which finished at 29-of-37 foul shots. URI was 20-of-33 from the charity stripe.
While some observers of the game said they believed West Virginia is a good team, and that it’s not a matter of a lack of effort, Huggins seemed to disagree.
“We continue to do things we can’t do,” said WVU’s head coach. “In practice every day, it’s catch the ball and square up. Then we catch the ball and dribble it and consequently we turn it over. We don’t do anything hard. We just go through the motions. There are no hard cuts to basket. No hard screens. We don’t do anything hard. We do everything soft.
“That’s 100 percent my fault,” Huggins summed up. “You try to be understanding and do the right things by the kids. But that’s 100% my fault.”
Only two Mountaineers scored in double figures, led by Wes Harris, who had 18 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Esa Ahmad added 12 points, but he had only two in the second half. WVU’s starting backcourt of Beetle Bolden (1 points, two assists, four turnovers and five fouls) and Chase Harler (5 points, 0 rebounds), combined to make just 1-of-14 shots from the field and only 1-of-9 from three-point range.