Mountaineers Maintain Confidence as Big 12 Play Nears - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Mountaineers Maintain Confidence as Big 12 Play Nears

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MORGANTOWN -

There is just one game left that separates West Virginia University from Big 12 basketball. A Mountaineer team that has struggled against the quality opponents on its schedule – and even some of the lesser foes – is trying to put together the pieces to find a real improvement on its 6-12 league record a year ago.

The problem is that despite honest claims from inside the WVU camp that these Mountaineers are vastly different and better than last year's group was, the results on the overall record wouldn't tell that story.

Bob Huggins and his squad are 7-5 through 12 games, the exact same mark they posted at the same time in 2012. That team went 13-19 and failed to make a postseason showing for the first time since the 2002-03 schedule.

The prevailing opinion inside the locker room is that WVU is closer to turning the corner and being a contender in the Big 12 than it is to falling apart like the version that took the court last season.

"That much," said sophomore Eron Harris, holding up his thumb and index finger to illustrate how close his team is to winning the tight games it has lost. "We're on the tip of just going over the edge. We're right there at the edge and we've just got to do some searching and find out what it is that we've got to do."

Huggins agrees with his students' perspective. The players on his team say that he and the rest of the staff have not gotten too hard on them after losses because they seem to understand how near they are to coming out on top.

"These are good guys," said Huggins. "I think eventually, it'll sink in. It's not a whole lot of fun now, that's for damn sure, but eventually it'll sink in. We're not far away from being pretty good."

The problem is that with a young, inexperienced team, the margin for error is small. In the past, before last season at least, Huggins' teams could overcome poor shooting nights with a strong defensive effort and a good showing on the glass.  

West Virginia ranks 112th nationally in rebounds with 37 per game and the Mountaineers claim that defensive breakdowns leading to easy looks for the opposition are the biggest reasons they struggle.

So when shots aren't falling, as was the case on Sunday against Purdue with the team connecting on just 37 percent of its attempts. Huggins says they need to stop relying on the perimeter shooting to get victories.

"I'm going to fix it. I've been trying to fix some other things, [but] I'm going to fix this," said the head coach. "We go down there, it's like your dog with the electric fence. We go down to that three-point line and man, we can't go past it. And everybody else runs for layups."

Huggins isn't concerned that his players may be losing confidence as the losses pile up and the close games go in the other team's favor, though. In fact, he doesn't believe any of the Mountaineers' issues can be connected to a lack of confidence.

"Playing hard, playing assertive, trying to go after rebounds, what does confidence have to do with that?" Huggins asked the gathered media following Sunday's setback. "Confidence probably is more feeling comfortable about taking a shot, but the honest to God's truth is I haven't said anything to any of them about shooting it. I think that's something that we're going to have to be good at and they're not going to be good at it if when they shoot, they're looking over at me to see if it was a good shot or not."

There is only one non-conference game remaining and though WVU has missed out on opportunities to get a quality win outside of the Big 12 to help the postseason resume, the Mountaineers' leading scorer feels good knowing that he and his teammates can accomplish their goals with a strong showing in league play.

"I know we still have the opportunity to do what we want to do," said Harris. "I know that we still have an opportunity to change what we need to change, so I'm going to pray that we do that and I'm going to work my hardest to change that." 

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