Huggins unhappy with struggling Mountaineers 171

MORGANTOWN — The film rewinds, then plays and then rewinds again, as WVU men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins searches for answers that have been elusive to this point.

The seventh-ranked Mountaineers likely will drop out of the top 10 after an 82-73 loss against TCU on Jan. 22 — WVU’s first-ever loss to the Horned Frogs in 12 attempts.

Any chance of securing one of the top eight seeds for the NCAA tournament is likely gone for now too, but Huggins has more pressing matters at the moment.

He studies another game, but pretty much sees the same Mountaineers, who — outside of last week’s blowout win over Texas — are struggling collectively with their outside shooting.

“I’ve watched more daggone film of us and them since I’ve been back,” Huggins said following the TCU loss. “I sit at home in my office and watch three or four games before I go into my (WVU) office.

“I can’t sleep, to be honest. This stuff drives me crazy. We just got to figure out a way to get better.”

How far WVU (16-4, 5-3) falls in the rankings will depend on Saturday’s match-up, with Kentucky, in the annual Big 12/SEC Challenge.

Kentucky (14-5, 4-3 SEC) is going through its own growing pains. The Wildcats have lost two straight, while shooting just 42 percent (48 of 114) from the floor and 18 percent (5 of 28) from 3-point range.

“We struggled with our offense,” WVU point guard Jevon Carter said after the TCU loss. “Another bad night shooting the ball.”

Carter and his teammates have talked many times about not being able to run WVU’s offense properly at times, and the Mountaineers have struggled with Big 12 teams who do not back down on defense.

But, there is more to it than that.

During the TCU game, Huggins nearly spent an entire timeout stressing to his players the need to get the ball inside to sophomore Sagaba Konate, who finished with 14 points and eight rebounds against the Horned Frogs.

Yet the Mountaineers kept bombing away from the outside, which Huggins said is part of the problem.

It’s not exactly taking so many outside shots that bothers him the most. It’s who’s taking them.

“We have guys who are 2 for their last 15 3s and they’re still shooting them,” Huggins said. “We’ve got guys who are 4 for 18 and are still shooting them.”

WVU continues to tinker with its full-court pressure, but Huggins has already said the press hasn’t been as effective against good competition as it was in recent seasons.

It’s not supplying as many transition opportunities as before, meaning WVU has to get better at running half-court sets.

“We’re not scoring the ball. We’re not making shots,” Huggins said. “It’s not like we didn’t have open shots. We’re just not making them.”

Some of that was the defense played recently by TCU, Kansas and Texas Tech.

And some, Huggins said, comes from a lack of focus and preparation.

“They’re really good guys, but some of their commitment is not what it needs to be,” he said. “We’re going to get better, but they got to want to. It’s not about the game. It’s about the preparation before the game.”

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