Mountaineers Share Blame in Second Half Collapse - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Mountaineers Share Blame in Second Half Collapse

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MORGANTOWN -

It's a young team with just two regular season games' worth of experience and troubles are abundant. Youth can shoulder part of the blame, but in WVU's second half against Kent State, the entire roster shared responsibility.

A five-point halftime lead quickly diminished to nothing and ultimately a complete swing of momentum to the Golden Flashes left the Mountaineers looking like a team without the veteran leadership of the visitors.

"I told them at halftime that [Kent State] was going to come out and compete," head coach Bob Huggins said after the game. "We just let them right back in the game."

Truck Bryant played nearly the entire 40 minutes despite committing a team-high six turnovers with just one assist and 4-of-13 shooting. He also struggled from the free throw line.

A game ago, the senior was forced out of the lineup with early fouls. This time, Huggins doesn't believe he had much of a choice but to leave him in.

"And put in who? You stand there where I stand and look down that bench, you'd probably come to the same conclusion that I did," says Huggins.

West Virginia's effort and execution in the morning matchup was like something out of an energy drink commercial. It existed in abundance through the first few minutes and much of the half, but suddenly it wore off at halftime and resulted in a major crash.

The majority of errors were unforced, with 17 turnovers in the game and missed opportunities to make good on shot attempts.

"That's more discouraging because that's something you think about when you mess up," says Bryant. "You know you messed up and you just try to get the ball back."

Their head coach is of the thinking that this type of showing is completely unacceptable, and he said as much to the players when they met after the game.

"To me, if you come try to steal my ball, I'm going to bust you in the mouth, you know what I mean? You're not going to take my ball," says Huggins. "That's what I tried to explain to them. That ball has gotten you this far, it's gotten you a free education like it did me. It can take you farther if you take advantage of the opportunities that are going to be presented to you because you've got that ball.

"Why are you going to let somebody come in and take it from you? I don't want anybody taking my ball. It's been too good to me."

There's just one day ahead of West Virginia before it's back on the court to face Alcorn State on Thursday. The focus will be on turnovers as Huggins works to correct one aspect of his team's game at a time.

Rebounding was last week's major focus. After getting hammered on the boards in a win over Oral Roberts, the Mountaineers turned their attention to regaining the dominance Huggins-coached teams typically display on the glass.

"I told you I would fix the rebounding and I put a much greater emphasis on rebounding the basketball," says Huggins. "Turnovers are a little harder to fix."

West Virginia's 46-33 rebounding advantage looks great on paper, but if it doesn't result in points, there's little to be excited about. Deniz Kilicli's 15 boards shattered his own personal best, but he shot just 3-of-10 from the field. He wasn't able to take advantage of WVU's 21 offensive boards.

Neither was anyone else.

In the first half, the Mountaineers had 11 second-chance points. They were only able to put five points worth of second chances into the bucket over the final 20 minutes.

"The truth is, how many times did we miss [shots] in the paint?" Huggins asked after the game. "We missed a ton of shots in the paint. Deniz gets a big time rebound and goes to the other side where there is nobody there and misses a layup. We can't overcome those things. We are not good enough."

A total of two three-point shots fell for WVU and 36 percent shooting for the game showed on the scoreboard as the Mountaineers scored fewer than 70 for the first time this season.

There may well be a new message to this team after each game it plays. For more than half of the roster, every experience is a new one. Every bit of adversity is uncharted territory at this level.

The veterans will be counted on to take Huggins' message and help execute it through practices and into games.

"We've got to keep telling them it's going to be hard," says Bryant. "It's going to be hard early on and we've just got to keep leading them so things can be a lot easier for them. Every game is something different because we do have basically a whole new team."

That whole new team is going back to the drawing board and trying to do all it can to ensure that it has more games like Tuesday's first half and less like the second.

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