Near Season's End, Growing Pains Still Plague WVU - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Near Season's End, Growing Pains Still Plague WVU

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MORGANTOWN -

You knew there would be growing pains this season in Morgantown. With so many freshmen forced into big minutes and so much youth making up the competition everyday in practice, there were going to be stumbles along the way.

What had West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins so frustrated as Friday evening transitioned into Saturday morning was that 29 games into the schedule, the growing pains seem as evident as ever.

"They suck," Huggins said of his freshmen following the team's 61-60 loss to Marquette. "You can't take plays off. You can't stand there and stare at the ball. Reality is that there is a whole bunch of them that we should take the price of the season tickets out of their scholarship because they have stood and watched the whole year."

Huggins has used former players as examples in recent weeks more than he may ever have done, and that's saying something for him. After this latest setback, he pointed to John Flowers and Wellington Smith, two athletes who understood and embraced their individual roles for the betterment of the whole.

What he sees from his current roster is, for the most part, a different story.

"This is as frustrated as I've been since my first year at Walsh College," said Huggins, in his fifth season at his alma mater. "I can't lose like this. I just can't do it."

The anguish Huggins feels is reflected in the faces of each player who came out to meet the media in defeat. By no coincidence, not a single freshman who generally participates in postgame interviews was available for questioning.

It was up to the veterans to discuss what had just transpired and why with two regular season games remaining, they are still at a loss for a way to correct problems that have likely been prevalent as far back as the team's trip to Italy last summer.

"We give effort a lot of the time, but not as much as we should and not as much as it's going to take to win games for us," says senior forward Kevin Jones.

How can this team get on track with the various identities it has on the court from start to finish of a single game or from one outing to the next? Players get yanked left and right for mistakes they make, so rather than learn on the go, they watch from the bench.

Some never make it back off their cushy chair to make up for whatever got them there in the first place.

"It was like that for me, too. It's like that for everybody," senior guard Truck Bryant said. "Me and K.J. earned the time we've got now as seniors and we've been through it all. That's how Coach treated us, that's how Coach treats everybody. It's no different for nobody. If you make a mistake, you're coming out."

There's a difference between it occurring within a game and then when it happens from day to day. Tommie McCune misses a trip to Pittsburgh, but then plays at Notre Dame. Keaton Miles and Aaron Brown don't log a single minute in South Bend, but play 38 combined at home two days later.

"It's different," says Jones. "It's definitely hard going through all the changes that we've been though, but Coach is going to play the guys who he feels are deserving to play and he felt those two deserved playing time today."

Or maybe he felt he had no better options. Maybe his own disbelief in what he has seen this season after 30 years of coaching is simply leading to a situation in which Huggins gives just about everyone a chance, even if he doesn't always think it is deserved.

Coming into the season, there was the thought that despite their youth, this was still a Bob Huggins-coached Mountaineers team that would in all likelihood exceed expectations as many of his four previous units have been able to do.

Those teams bought in, though. They struggled and fought through the difficult times to find some sort of momentum enough to carry them to a bye or a double bye in the Big East tournament.

This year, they are plummeting to a first-round showing and at the rate they are falling, it could be a brief stay in New York City.

"You know what they better start worrying about?" Huggins asked of his freshmen before providing the answer on his own. "Where they're going to go next. Because we're not going to do this. I'm not going to do it."

Something needs to click for a group of players who are losing confidence and momentum at the worst possible time.

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