Conference Play Proving to be Tough on West Virginia - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Conference Play Proving to be Tough on West Virginia

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Ryan Petrovich, MORGANTOWN -

West Virginia (10-8, 2-3 in Big 12 play) suffered its  third straight loss since entering Big 12 conference play. The Mountaineers were stomped on Saturday  by Kansas State, losing 78-56.

The Mountaineers have a 2-3 record in the Big 12 and sit near the bottom of the conference. After picking up two road-wins over TCU and Texas Tech it looked as if Bob Huggins' team was off to a hot start and could make a good run during conference play.

However, TCU and Texas Tech are similar to West Virginia. They too find themselves near the bottom of the Big 12. A win's a win, but beating TCU and Texas Tech didn't add any stand-out credibility to the Mountaineers' resume.

After those two wins, Oklahoma State traveled to Morgantown and escaped the WVU Coliseum with a one-point victory over the Mountaineers.  

At first, you might think that a one-point loss to one the best teams in not only the Big 12, but the nation, is somewhat encouraging. It showed the tremendous effort of a young team and that they're capable of hanging with a top team in the Big 12.

But after that loss, the team began to unravel even more. Texas marched into Morgantown and delivered a beat down after manhandling the Mountaineers on the boards and inside the lane, while this weekend Kansas State soared past Huggins and company.

Five games into Big 12 play the Mountaineers sit below .500 and the climb is only going to get steeper.  

The Big 12 has 10 teams in the conference and of the 10 teams, six of them are nationally ranked. The most recent polls have Kansas ranked 8th, Oklahoma State at 11, Iowa State 16th, Kansas State 22nd, Baylor 24th and Oklahoma finishing it off at 25.

West Virginia still has to play all of those teams, some of them twice. The Big 12 is not an easy conference to compete in and the rankings prove that, but playing high-caliber teams isn't the only reason West Virginia is failing to come up with wins. There are problems all around for this young team.

"I don't understand it," said Huggins. "We don't pass the ball. We got in trouble [against Kansas State] really when we came down, made a pass or two and shot it. You can't do that."

The fundamentals like passing and rebounding have been an issue all season. Rebounding has been a long-term concern and that came up again against Texas. The Longhorns embarrassed the Mountaineers inside, out-rebounding West Virginia 49-30.

Against Kansas State, West Virginia's defense struggled to stop the Wildcats from doing just about everything. Huggins has said time and time again that his team's transition defense needs to improve.

A tough road awaits the Mountaineers if they continue to play at this level in such a competitive conference. However it's not to say they can't come out and play like they did against Oklahoma State, but a major turnaround is needed.

"It comes to a point when everybody needs to dig deep and show what their made of," said guard Juwan Staten. "You can't come out here every game and just play to play. You have to come out here to play to win. You need to prepare to win."

The Mountaineers will turn their focus to Texas Tech, one of the teams they did manage to pick-up a win against. Playing a team once before was something Staten said would help the Mountaineers come Wednesday.

Experience as whole is a major contributing factor to the Mountaineer's future success.  

"I think it comes with experience," added Staten. "The freshman and the new guys are getting more experience every game. It'll start clicking soon."

It'll need to start clicking as soon as possible. The season's teetering on disaster and if the Mountaineers aren't careful they'll end up just like they did last season. The Mountaineers have a decent number of games remaining to get things back on track.

"Looking forward to more games," Staten said. "[We have] more opportunities to set it right, especially against quality opponents."

"I'm just going to take it game-by-game," said guard Eron Harris. "We're still in the race. We are what we are though. We're 2-3 now, that's in the past now. We got to win our next game."

West Virginia will meet Texas Tech Wednesday night at the WVU Coliseum. This is another chance for the Mountaineers to pick up some steam before facing the ranked teams of the Big 12.

"These games are must-win games," Staten said.

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