WVU Hoops Hits Rock Bottom
That loud crashing sound you heard Wednesday night at 9:15 p.m. Eastern was West Virginia’s basketball team hitting rock bottom.
With all that has happened to this team this season, which includes Sagaba Konate’s injury that probably has ended his yeat, the suspension of super freshman Derek Culver, numerous injuries to Beetle Bolden, another suspension of less significance… all of it pales in comparison to the way the Mountaineers lost to Kansas State.
After completely dominating the first half and taking a 21-point lead in the first minute of the second half against the team that ranked 330th in scoring in the NCAA and was playing without the Big 12’s Preseason Player of the Year, WVU streaked back to earth like a meteor burning out as it entered the earth’s surface.
With Barry Brown leading the way with 29 points, 20 of them in the second half — which was one less than the K-State team scored in the entire first half — the Wildcats completed their all-time greatest comeback and beat WVU, 71-69.
The biggest deficit K-State had ever overcome before was 17 points, doing that twice.
The loss dropped WVU into last place in the Big 12 at 0-3 and left them at 8-7 overall.
WVU got 17 points overall from Culver to go with 12 rebounds and Lamont West bounced back from a scoreless game last time out to score 21 points.
“Derek is carrying a whole bunch of guys we’re supposed to be depending on. He’s carrying them on his back,” Huggins said.
That includes Esa Ahmad, the senior who has been plagued with turnover problems. He had five in the game including a key one down the stretch.
It includes Beetle Bolden, expected to offer key outside shooting and straight line driving but who, once again, had a dismal offensive night, not scoring and injured again.
Wes Harris, again plagued by fouls, finished with just three points.
But mostly it was the defense that could do nothing to stop Brown and Co. in the second half as K-State scored 50 points, at one point hitting eight straight field goal attempts and lighting up from 3-point range.
Mark McGuirl, hitting 16 percent from 3 entering the game, hit 4 of 6 six.
“You can only warn them. You can’t do it for them,” said an openly distressed Huggins. “We told them they were going to drive it at you. We said that’s all they can do.”
And it was all Kansas State did, driving over and over to the basket to either get easy shots or kicking out for threes.
What’s more, WVU could not do anything to take the ball away from Kansas State, which turned the ball over just six times to 17 for the Mountaineers.
“This is my fault,” Huggins said. “I recruited these guys. I’m supposed to be smart enough to get them to play. I should be smart enough to know what I got. To continue to trust people who don’t deserve to be trusted, that’s on me.”
Media normally does not resort to writing fiction, no matter what the politicians say, but it’s hard to imagine that what transpired in the first half had anything to do with reality, especially considering the final outcome.
True, this game matched up the two last place teams in the Big 12, the only winless teams in conference play, and two of the lowest scoring teams anywhere.
But what K-State went through you couldn’t imagine. Their only basket in the first 11:12 of the first half came on a goaltending call.
When they finally put the ball through the hoop it was on a dunk by Austin Trice and, at the time, they were shooting nine percent from the field.
Part of it was strong defense from WVU but the ineptitude of Kansas State had even more to do with it as WVU’s lead swelled as high as 18 points.
The Mountaineers weren’t scorching the nets. In fact, at halftime neither Bolden nor Ahmad had scored, but West, who was scoreless in his last game, finally showed up with a hot hand off the bench and had 11 points.
He hit three of six from 3, a welcome return to form.
Culver, also off the bench, had eight points and four rebounds.
In fact, WVU’s starting five, which had scored only 17 points in the last game, had only 11 of WVU’s points as they took a 36-21 lead into the locker room.
There were two key developments early in the second half. It started with Ahmad, who had played only five minutes in the first half, hitting his first shot and then Makol Mawein, the player Huggins said he feared the most on Kansas State, picked up two fouls in 24 seconds.
That gave him four and sent him to the bench.
The Mountaineers increased their lead to 21, doubling the Wildcats’ score at 42-21 but K-State began showing life, canning a pair of threes to cut the lead to 15 at the first media time out of the second half.
And shortly thereafter the game turned, sending the Mountaineers into sole possession of the cellar in the Big 12.