WVU’s Miles Stellar in Kansas Loss
You coach basketball long enough, and in Bob Huggins’ case 37 years is certainly long enough, and you get to know something about the game and the players you coach.
Especially if that player is a senior, a player who has started more games for West Virginia than any but four other players in the program’s history as Daxter Miles Jr. has.
You not only know a player like that, but there is an attachment that grows.
Now with Huggins, if you give him all you have, you get all he has in return and Huggins has seen Miles grow over his four years at West Virginia, going through any number of peaks and valleys to arrive at the point where now you can count his remaining Mountaineer regular season starts on one hand.
He’s also watched him struggle badly at times in this, that senior season.
Miles started the year injured, didn’t get his work in preseason and was slow to start, scoring just three points in the season opener against Texas A&M, before finding himself against a pair of weak opponents in American and Morgan State, scoring 20 and 32 points, while making 19-of-27 shots.
The magic left and he wound up on the bench for a while after fighting a losing battle with the flu, suffering through some four consecutive games in which he failed to reach double figures before showing signs of life in the TCU victory, scoring 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
Prior to the Kansas game, Huggins was bold as he predicted a big night for Miles. He noted that Miles had practiced well all week long.
“If Dax plays like he’s played all week, he’s going to shock them,” Huggins said.
And shock them he did. Part of it went back to a conversation Huggins had with Miles.
“We had a conversation about what he can do to help the team,” Huggins explained. “Dax is our best athlete. He wasn’t getting the back cuts he got at one time. He wasn’t getting the rebound baskets he got. He was just standing out there shooting 3s and you don’t want your best athlete to stand there just shooting 3s.”
All of this was bouncing around in Miles’ mind as the team went to Kansas, his and Jevon Carter’s final game at Allen Fieldhouse, where they and WVU had never won.
Miles was geared up and it showed from the start.
He would lead the Mountaineers in scoring with 22 points. He would hit 8-of-15 shots, including 6-of-9 from 3.
But there had to be that talk with Huggins dancing around somewhere in his mind, the idea that he wasn’t there just to shoot 3s and, in the end, it was the 3s he didn’t shoot that turned out to be his undoing and helped lead to the Mountaineers’ undoing as they blew yet another double-digit lead in the second half and lost to Kansas.
Twice in the game Miles had wide open 3s.
Would he have made, them, no one knows, but certainly he had a better chance than anyone else on this night, but both times he decided to turn playmaker.
The first time his pass inside hit Logan Routt squarely in the back, Routt having turned to rebound the shot he was sure was coming.
Then, with 25 seconds remaining, Wesley Harris grabbed an offensive rebound and got the ball to Miles, who should have fired away. But he saw Esa Ahmad down low and tried to thread a needle and instead pricked his finger with it, the pass being broken up and stolen.
“We made some mistakes; Dax should have shot the last one and he probably should have shot the one before that, but he’s playing like crazy — he’s trying,” Huggins said.
After the game, Miles was in tears, the 22 points he scored meaning nothing to him.
“I should’ve shot the ball instead of forcing the ball inside,” Miles told reporters outside the WVU locker room. “I put this one on myself. All the scoring doesn’t matter when you lose. As a senior you’ve got to know what do in those last moments.”
But that now was yesterday and WVU has to pull itself together again.
A hot Baylor team, fresh off a critical victory at home against Big 12 leader Texas Tech for its fifth straight win, is next.
“You’ve got to get ready for Baylor and hopefully they don’t shoot 35 free throws to our two,” Huggins said. “I don’t know what to do about that. The other part … we’ll get them back. We’ll find a way to bounce back and try to win at Baylor.”