Mountaineers Suffer Exhibition Embarrassment - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Mountaineers Suffer Exhibition Embarrassment

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MORGANTOWN -

A word echoed through the Coliseum Friday night. It was a word that isn't supposed to be associated with an exhibition game, where the host is expected to hammer the visiting team. The word was embarrassing.

If it came simply from the fans, it could be ignored. But when your senior-most players are using multiple times in their postgame remarks, it must be taken into consideration.

"It's very embarrassing," says Kevin Jones. "I'm not taking anything away from them, they shot the hell out of the ball, they played harder than us and they wanted it. It's very embarrassing because Coach always prides himself on going out there and being the aggressive team and being the hardest working team on the court. We definitely weren't that tonight."

In so many regards, the Mountaineers were embarrassed on the court. A loss to a Division-II school isn't supposed to happen, but when it is the result of so many physical and mental errors, there is legitimate concern on the players' faces.

West Virginia was out-rebounded in the first half 19-12, and was beaten in every aspect of the game when it came to play in the paint.

"It hurts," says Jones. "I mean, at first I was rushing things in the first half and missing very makeable shots from like three feet, but in the second half I slowed down and things went well for me. By that time, they had already had a big lead."

There's something to be said about a team shooting 52 percent from 3-point range, as the Norse did against WVU. That something could be that you can't beat a team when it's hitting like that, but in this game, the real issue was that the vast majority of those shots were uncontested.

West Virginia fought fire with fire, though, and after scoring on just 2-of-9 threes in the first half, it shot 75 percent in the second. It's how the Mountaineers crept back in the game, and it's how Truck Bryant tied it with just over six seconds left.

But how fitting that NKU should return the favor with a three of its own to close out any chances the home team had at pulling off the comeback.

This is a young team, and there are likely going to be more hiccups along the way to teams far more capable than Northern Kentucky. But youth cannot take the whole blame for what transpired Friday night. At some point, veterans accept responsibility too.

"Young or not, basketball is basketball at the end of the day. It just has to be fixed," says Jones. "It's not the end of the world, but it's close to it. We have to get this thing turned around real quick and we have to get everybody buying into it."

It turns out this was not the first exhibition Bob Huggins has lost as a head coach. He recalls losing to Athletes in Action while at Cincinnati in 1992. That team went on to play in the Final Four.

Just two years ago, Syracuse lost its exhibition game to D-II school Le Moyne before going on to post a 30-5 record and a Sweet Sixteen appearance.

This team isn't quite the caliber of those two, though.

Huggins knows what to expect from his players better than anyone in the gym Friday, but he has expressed his belief recently that by the time the Big East Tournament rolls around, the difference in his team will be night and day.

Right now, he must be hoping he's right. The first step to making that night and day difference begins just a few hours after this nightmare ended.

"We are [practicing] at 8:30 in the morning," Huggins said after the game. "While you're sleeping, we'll be in [the gym.]"

And how would he define what he's trying to fix with that early practice? Would Huggins also say it was embarrassing?

"I could use a couple other words to describe it," said Huggins. "But I probably shouldn't for the family newspapers that you guys write for."

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