MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - After a narrow loss to No. 11 Texas Tech Wednesday at the WVU Coliseum, head coach Bob Huggins again questioned his team’s commitment.
Traditionally, Huggins requires his players to make 100 free throws a day. But in a 62-59 loss to the Red Raiders, the Mountaineers missed 14 foul shots, including a stretch where they went 1-8 across 7:40 that spanned between the two halves.
“Tell me,” Huggins said, “if they’re really doing that, if they’re not cheating – I have the managers count them, but they’ll intimidate the managers – so how do you go 1-5 from the free throw line? How do you go 4-7 from the free throw line if you’re actually making 100 per day? It’s about commitment, man.”
West Virginia shot 18-43 from the field and 18-32 from the line. Prior to the loss, WVU had shot 70 percent from the stripe for the season. It had only shot below 57 percent on two other occasions.
The loss in the Big 12 opener dropped the Mountaineers’ record to 8-5 overall, and prompted Huggins to continue to doubt the team’s work ethic.
“Basketball is kind of like your girlfriend: If you don’t pay attention to her, she’s probably going to drift off on you,” said Huggins. “I look at basketball that way. Basketball is something you’ve got to love. You gotta love, you gotta be committed to, you gotta spend time with, and when you don’t do that, basketball gets mad, just like your girlfriend would.”
Beyond its woes from the charity stripe, West Virginia did itself no favors: The Mountaineers also committed more turnovers (22) than made field goals (18). Texas Tech only committed 13 turnovers.
“We’re very charitable,” said Huggins. “People struggle, we throw them the ball, make it easier for them. That’s how the whole thing [Texas Tech’s comeback] started.”
The Mountaineers led by as many as nine in the final five minutes of the first half, but that’s when offensive struggles began to set it. A 21-12 WVU lead with 4:53 quickly evaporated as it went without a field goal until the 14:47 mark of the second half.
By then, the Mountaineers trailed 33-26, victims of a 21-4 Texas Tech run.
Junior Lamont West led all scorers with 22 points, but beyond his contributions, no other upperclassman reached double figures.
“We’re not making any shots, and I thought that was the one thing we’d be able to do, have people that could make shots,” said Huggins. “Our upperclassmen, we thought, could carry those freshmen until those freshmen got ready to play.”
West Virginia has a chance to bounce back Saturday at 9 p.m. on the road against Texas. But after a rocky non-conference stretch and a loss in the first game of league play, Huggins said the team’s outlook is already dire.
“We have put ourselves in a situation where our backs are against the wall,” said Huggins. “Historically here, other than one year, when our back was against the wall, we came out fighting like hell.”