WVU Veterans Must Step Up, Be Accountable - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU Veterans Must Step Up, Be Accountable

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MORGANTOWN -

In what served as the team's biggest test of the season, a young Mountaineers team went to Starkville and fell apart midway through the second half.

As much blame as could be placed on a youthful roster, though, much of the onus falls on the shoulders of West Virginia's veterans.

Through the first five games of the season, you could hear five different sets of postgame interviews in which the team's growth has been the focus. Are they, in fact, growing? Who's growing the most? Who still has the longest road to success?

But rarely has the attention been placed on the three Mountaineers with the most experience as much as it was following the 75-62 loss to Mississippi State Saturday night.

Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant, WVU's leading scorers at this point in the season, shot a combined 35 percent from the field. Between them was just one made 3-pointer. Those two and Deniz Kilicli had more turnovers than assists between them, as did the team as a whole.

"We've got to get better and K.J. and Truck have to become more consistent for us. They've got to do more things right," Bob Huggins said after the loss. "Because those other guys are going to screw things up, I mean they just are. They're going to screw things up like those guys did when they were freshmen."

West Virginia cannot continue to hide behind the notion that the roster is too young.

That's the team this year and to preach on inexperience is to stunt the potential growth that is inside each one of the seven freshmen who got in the game against the Bulldogs.

By the end of the season, it will only be the national media still concerning itself with the Mountaineers youth because those who follow the team all year will have gotten over that fact. The sooner, the better for WVU.

Huggins admits that he hasn't yet been able to implement all the sets offensively and all the defensive concepts that he'd like to have in place, but he won't use that as an excuse for failing to execute what has already been taught.

"You have to have enough in to combat what people are going to do to you. You have to have zone offense, you have to be able to have some semblance of man offense," says Huggins.

When the Mountaineers switched to a 1-3-1 zone in the second half, it worked how Huggins wanted it to. The Bulldogs passed back and forth across the court, looking for an open shot from the perimeter and took one. It missed.

But just as the concept takes its chances that an opponent won't always connect on an open three, it also requires some blocking out to keep a big man from out jumping the guard who mans the basket. WVU didn't do that against Mississippi State, and it paid for the mistake.

"We let a guy come right down underneath without blocking anybody out and let him tip it in, just like we did in the Kent State game," says Huggins. "Those things, we're not good enough to overcome. I keep telling them that. It's not we can't win, we can't not do right."

It's harder to do right when the player Huggins praises for doing right is out of the game. Jones, who had just six fouls in five games coming into Saturday, had three in the first half. He only played 25 minutes, a season low.

In his absence, Pat Forsythe and Kevin Noreen were asked to play key minutes and handled the pressure well, but those two are no long term solution for Jones being out. That solution doesn't exist for the Mountaineers. Jones needs to play.

"The truth is, Kevin Jones can't get in foul trouble – he did," says Huggins. "Kevin Jones can't go 0-for-6 from three and he did. Truck goes 5-for-14, we're not going to win. I mean, we're just not going to win."

The story of this young team needs to turn into the story of the veterans who are counted on to lead it. More should be expected of them and it needs to start at Kansas State this Thursday.

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