The Dominion Post  

Mountaineers’ slump exasperates Huggins

Created on:   Thu, Feb 1, 2018   9:45 PM

Last modified:   Thu, Feb 1, 2018   9:45 PM

The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — If fatigue has hurt the 15th-ranked WVU men’s basketball team, head coach Bob Huggins stressed it hasn’t been from back-breaking practices.

Huggins has made sure of that to a point, knowing that WVU’s schedule would toughen in Big 12 play and that the Mountaineers faced five conference games this season with just one day of preparation between games.

And so, practice has become a source of frustration with Huggins.

“We do not practice the way we have practiced before,” Huggins said following WVU’s 93-77 loss against Iowa State, on Wednesday. “We do not practice the way these guys practiced earlier in the year. We haven’t run up and down in practice in I don’t know how long. Just a little bit, but very little.”

Yet, when Huggins watches his team, he does not see an energized bunch of players. He does not see players aching to stop a slide that has seen WVU (16-6, 5-4 Big 12) go from being ranked No. 2 in the country to losing five of its last six games.

“Every game we play, everybody seems bouncier than us,” Huggins said. “Everybody seems to be more athletic than we are. We took so much pride in getting to the ball and making plays and being a great offensive rebounding team. Everybody is better than we are right now.”

For the first time since 2014, WVU lost three consecutive games and faces a challenge, at 4 p.m. Feb 3, against Kansas State.

The Mountaineers have-n’t lost four straight since the end of the 2012-’13 season, when they lost seven in a row.

WVU’s defense and lack of a consistent full-court pressure hurt against the Cyclones, who turned the ball over just eight times.

“We don’t guard,” Huggins said. “These guys have single-handedly destroyed ‘Press’ Virginia. We can’t press anybody.”

Guarding in the half-court wasn’t any better, as Iowa State shot 62 percent (36 of 58) for the game.

“We don’t guard and we don’t have any pride in guarding,” Huggins said. “I’ve never coached guys like that, never. We’ve always taken a lot of pride in saying, ‘By God, I got you and I’m going to fight you tooth and nail for every second I’m on the floor.’ We don’t have that. People score and we don’t even react. At least act like you’re mad. Act like it bothers you. Trick me, you know?”

On this night, Huggins said, he had no quick answers for how the Mountaineers could turn things around.

The coach hinted at some overconfidence in players when WVU was ranked No. 2. Or maybe that players were simply lazy.

“I wish I could put my finger on what it is,” he said.

It would be difficult to analyze how much damage has been done until either the season comes to an end or WVU drastically turns things around.

Until that point, WVU goes back to the drawing board and back to the film room to see where it can develop some changes.

And then ... practice, which Huggins said has to get better for any type of turnaround to begin.

“We looked tired, but it wasn’t because of practice,” Huggins said. “We haven’t really practiced hard. Honestly, I would probably have to get a chair and a whip to get them to practice hard, because they stopped practicing hard a while ago.”