West Virginia Lacks Heart in Downward Spiral - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

West Virginia Lacks Heart in Downward Spiral

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MORGANTOWN -

The last two times West Virginia was able to put together victories, Notre Dame was the next team on the schedule.

Both times, any sort of momentum or confidence the Mountaineers had built up in the previous outing was dashed as WVU fell back to the ground with a loud thud.

After scoring just 16 points in the first half of the loss earlier this month, Bob Huggins' team came out and matched that poor effort in the final 20 minutes on Wednesday.

Notre Dame shot 61 percent against the Mountaineers, the best a team has done against West Virginia since Huggins took over. It wasn't as though the Irish just made every shot they took despite tough defense. There was no defense.

Time after time, shooters were left open on the perimeter and if by some off chance they were guarded well enough to deny a shot, they found Jack Cooley in the middle to put in two of his 13 points.

West Virginia shot just 31 percent with one made 3-pointer.

Now 28 games into the season, there is still no identity to the team. Huggins goes through lineups like a guess-and-check problem.

Last week, freshman forward Tommie McCune didn't make the trip to play at Pittsburgh and Keaton Miles started, but on Wednesday, McCune got in the game and both Miles and Aaron Brown never made it to the court.

"My guys at Cincinnati used to say all the time, ‘Coach, you ain't the Wizard, man. You can't give that guy a heart, man,'" Huggins said in his radio show with the Mountaineer Sports Network, referencing the story of the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.

That isn't to say he doesn't try to bring out the heart in his men. It took Huggins nearly 30 minutes to get to his radio show, a clear sign of quite a message in the locker room.

But all the messages, all the pleading, haven't paid off. There are no real signs of improvement from the Mountaineers and in many areas there are discouraging indications of the team taking steps backward.

Last year's WVU basketball team was full of players who would never be faulted for lacking heart. Maybe they weren't the most talented athletes, but they certainly tried as hard as they could and put in extra hours to correct any problems they had.

Without being around the current crop every minute of their lives to have any firsthand proof, you have to take Huggins' word for it that those extra hours are being spent on something other than improving on the court this season.

This was a team that was supposed to bring a different look offensively than what Huggins put on the court in previous seasons.

It would have been naïve to believe everything the players and coaches said about the high-paced transition attack that would get up and down the court at a rate the personnel recently was incapable of achieving. What we have seen this season is completely unlike what we were told the plan was, though.

There have been flashes, sure, but nothing to build on.

It has to be eating away at Kevin Jones. His outstanding season is getting wasted, and after being the shoe-in for conference player of the year, doubt arises due to the fact that he is having this sort of year for a team that is falling apart.

Jones was only able to put up 15 points and eight rebounds in this game. He will be the first to tell you that he'll take those stats if the team is winning. When it isn't, though, he'll tell you he isn't sleeping.

"Sad as it is to say, we just kind of laid it down," said Huggins. "K.J. was in the huddle saying, ‘Come on, come on, come on, we've got to play, we've got to play ‘til the end.'"

And if it weren't for Huggins taking Jones out of the game with a little over a minute remaining, he would have. The senior leader, the most consistent player, the most emotionally driven Mountaineer, would have played – or better yet, fought – until the end of the game.

Jones knows no other way. Unfortunately for him, the same cannot be said for the rest of the roster he shares a place on.

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