The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

December 12, 2013

Is WVU really any better?

Mountaineeers running out of opportunities to get statement victory

West Virginia fans want to get behind the 2013-14 Mountaineer basketball team. After a painful 13-19 finish a year ago they want a reason to cheer. They want an excuse to pack the Coliseum and they are longing to discuss the 2010 Final Four run without thinking how far the program has fallen since those days.

The numbers say this team is better. The Mountaineers (6-4) are shooting better from the field. Turnovers are down. Assists are up. Team chemistry has improved.

But every time WVU has a chance to show that improvement to the country, it falls short.

It happened in Mexico, when WVU fell behind by 17 against No. 10 Wisconsin and couldn’t quite complete the comeback, falling 70-63.

It happened in Missouri, when the Mountaineers followed a similar script, allowing the undefeated Tigers to take a 25-point second-half lead before WVU closed within four points down the stretch in an 80-71 loss.

And it happened inside the WVU Coliseum Tuesday, when the Mountaineers reversed the trend, building up a 10-point second-half lead on No. 20 Gonzaga before falling 80-76.

“We’re so close to being pretty good,” said head coach Bob Huggins following the latest setback. “But, at the same time, we’re so far away.”

Huggins’ words also reflect the larger picture. WVU is close to having a good season and erasing the nightmare of 2012-13, if it can start winning those types of games — and it will have some chances with Purdue left on the nonconference slate and a conference schedule that includes No. 7 Oklahoma State twice, No. 13 Kansas twice, No. 14 Baylor twice and No. 17 Iowa State twice.

But with a difficult slate ahead, WVU is also on the verge of another slide. If it doesn’t start winning some of the close ones, that chemistry, which has been so much better, could change. The confidence could disappear and another losing season could be waiting in the wings.

The next three weeks, with conference play beginning against TCU on Jan. 4, will be key. WVU needs to win the next three — against Marshall in the Capital Classic on Saturday, at home against Purdue on Dec. 22 and in Charleston against William & Mary on Dec. 29 — to build some momentum heading into conference play, and Huggins believes it will.

“I think we’ve competed with everybody we’ve played,” said Huggins. “Given another chance at the end of the year, I think we could beat every team we’ve played. We’re going to continue to get better and better. At the same time, we’ve got to win enough games to be able to do that.”

There’s just no time for learning on the job.

— E-mail: chuffman@

register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

1
Text Only
College Sports
  • Miners stop Lorain County 5-1

    The West Virginia Miners received a strong outing from starting pitcher Patrick LaGanke, and scored one run in each of the final five innings to defeat the Lorain County Ironmen 5-1 Thursday.

    July 25, 2014

  • Some topics of interest to area fans

    Tom Hart, a widely known retired Morgantown High School administrator and coach, continues to excel as one of the nation’s top bowlers

    July 25, 2014

  • 072514 WVU Replacing Sims a challenge for WVU

    Every year, almost every college football preview publication available lists one key statistic that most use to evaluate the prospects for any given football team — returning starters.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • WVU’s Worley clear starter at cornerback

    There were few bright spots in West Virginia University’s 4-8 football campaign last year, and even fewer on the defensive side of the football, where the Mountaineers gave up more than 455 yards and 33 points per game.

    July 24, 2014

  • Holgorsen to appear on ESPN special

    West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen will appear Wednesday on ESPN’s annual mid-summer college football coaches’ “car wash” — in which guests appear across multiple programs and platforms over one day.

    July 23, 2014

  • Holgorsen: WVU getting comfortable in new league

    Dana Holgorsen remembers the glory days of West Virginia University football — the ones that included conference championships and BCS bowl wins. In fact, he was part of one of those, leading the Mountaineers to a Big East championship and an Orange Bowl victory in his first season as head coach in 2011.

    July 23, 2014

  • 072314 miners Miners take series with Paints

    The way the West Virginia Miners see it, they don’t have the luxury of planning for tomorrow.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • WVU's Fleming signs with Yankees

    Second baseman Billy Fleming of the West Virginia University baseball team has signed a professional contract with the New York Yankees, foregoing his upcoming senior season.

    July 22, 2014

  • WVU to kickoff 2018 season against Tennessee in Charlotte

    The Charlotte Sports Foundation (CSF) announced Tuesday morning that it has secured a regular season college football game for the city of Charlotte pitting the University of Tennessee against West Virginia University.

    July 22, 2014

  • Can summit of bigwigs really solve college athletics issues?

    I see where the Big 12 Conference is going to host in New York City what will be titled “A State of College Athletics Forum.”

    July 22, 2014

Saints Training Camp