By Mickey Furfari
MORGANTOWN — Going into Thursday night’s rematch at old rival Pitt, the West Virginia men’s basketball team has lost five of its last six games.
It is obviously a skid that Coach Bob Huggins believes resulted more from his young team’s mistakes than opponents’ superiority.
The Mountaineers were unable to preserve first-half leads in most, if not all five defeats. The difference was two points at Big East leader Syracuse, and six against Pitt, four against Notre Dame and three against Louisville — the latter three all in Morgantown.
There were other close losses earlier which WVU perhaps could have won. But Huggins indicated at his press conference after last Saturday’s 77-74 setback against Louisville that he’s tired of excuses and inefficiency.
“We’ve got to do a better job,” he stated. “I’m tired of (hearing) if we’d do this right or if we would do that right. If we wouldn’t do this.”
Huggins definitely is deeply disappointed with his players’ failures to make free throws, especially near game’s end. They converted on only 17 of 27 against Louisville.
He said, “We should make more free throws. We shoot and make 100 in practice every day. If we make our free throws, and Deniz (Kilicli) stays in the game (he fouled out), (WVU would have won.)
“That’s what I told our players.”
The veteran mentor told his players before the game started that “we’re just this far away from being really good,” as he held two fingers slightly open.
“We’re that far away from somebody who’s supposed to switch and doesn’t,” he continued. “We’re that far away from somebody making free throws — standing up like a man and making them at the end of games.
“We’re that far away from getting rebounds. You can’t give (an opponent) these second chances (late). They shoot the ball too well.”
Huggins also lamented that “we don’t block people out. We didn’t do things we have to do.
“We just gotta stop the ifs, buts and get to the line and make free throws. They were given too many chances.”
West Virginia (16-10, 6-7 Big East) has only five games remaining in the regular season. Marquette and DePaul will visit the Coliseum.
Besides Pitt, the road games are at Notre Dame and USF.