Cold shooting and being beat on the glass led to West Virginia suffering its second straight Big 12 conference loss Monday night against the Texas Longhorns, falling 80-69.
All season head coach Bob Huggins has relied on the play of his perimeter guys. Players like Eron Harris, Terry Henderson and Juwan Staten carry this team.
It's clear that when Huggins' guards aren't performing well, the team as whole suffers. In West Virginia's loss to Texas, the Mountaineers shot just 26-69 (37.7 percent) from the field and a mere 4-for-25 (16 percent) from behind the arc.
"Did you ever go 4-for-25? It drains your energy," said Huggins. "We didn't make shots. If you make shots, you play harder, and if you don't, you put your head down. We didn't make them."
Juwan Staten led the way with a game-high 23 points, but even he recognizes that he and his fellow guards cannot continue to shoulder the burden on their own.
"I just tend to think we live and die by the three," said Staten. "I just think we need to find other ways to score."
So where can West Virginia turn to find other ways to score? One could suggest scoring from inside but the Mountaineers have no presence inside the paint.
"We're 10-7 and we've suffered inside for 17 games," Huggins said. "We don't have anyone who can score."
So far this season, West Virginia has looked to freshman Devin Williams to take care of the inside play and for the most part the freshman has provided some help but the inside play is nowhere close to being where it needs to be.
Williams is averaging 9.6 points and 7.6 rebounds a game. In the loss against Texas, Williams was virtually nonexistent. Due to an illness, Williams wasn't able to play very well. The freshman forward scored only two points and reeled in zero rebounds in 16 minutes of action.
"Williams didn't feel good obviously," Huggins said. "Devin had a bit of the flu, or a lot of the flu, and he wasn't very good. When he's not very good then we're not very good."
Texas center Cameron Ridley took advantage of the Mountaineers inside the paint. Ridley was able to pull down 12 rebounds and score 12 points.
Ridley's big frame caused problems for the Mountaineers and with Williams limited there was no answer for him. The Longhorns out-rebounded the Mountaineers 49-30.
"Cameron Ridley really surprised me on how he got off the ground and got rebounds and put-backs," said Harris.
"We didn't get any rebounds, we didn't stop anyone on defense," added Henderson. "They rebounded well. Playing against a team that rebounded like that, it was a shock. We're really going to have to work at boxing out. I feel like we got bullied."
Other than Williams, the Mountaineers have Nathan Adrian, Remi Dibo, Brandon Watkins and Kevin Noreen to provide help inside the paint.
Adrian is averaging 5.4 points and 2.9 rebounds a game while Dibo is averaging 7.5 points per game but both are more comfortable on the perimeter. Watkins led the Mountaineers in rebounds against the Longhorns by snagging six but still has a long way to go in development terms. That leaves Noreen who scored no points and only brought down two boards against Texas.
"I've got Nate Adrian at about 210 to 215 pounds, I got Remi Dibo who's 210 pounds, I got Brandon [Watkins] who's a stick," said Huggins. "If I don't get Devin to put a big body on a big body could you block out Ridley? We needed a big body. Devin's the only big body we have.
The Mountaineers will turn their focus to a good Kansas
State team this Saturday. If Williams is healthy the inside play might not
suffer as it did against Texas. With little to rely on inside,
the perimeter play from Harris, Henderson and Staten will mean everything for
this team moving forward.