MORGANTOWN — There was no talk of a quick fix from Bob Huggins.
No promises of turnarounds or miracle finishes, either.
“We just have to go to practice and get better,” West Virginia forward Lamont West said Wednesday, following the Mountaineers’ devastating 71-69 loss against Kansas State, in which the Wildcats erased a 21-point lead in the second half to win. “The season is not over. I know we lost, but the season is not over. We have to stay positive and try to win some games.”
True, this season is far from over for the Mountaineers (8-7, 0-3 Big 12), who are off to their worst start in conference play since joining the Big 12 in 2012.
That doesn’t mean Huggins is against taking a look at making some changes.
Those changes, Huggins said, will begin with lifting the redshirt off freshman Trey Doomes and giving the 6-fooot-3 guard from Acworth, Ga. an opportunity to play this season.
“He’s the only straight line driver we got,” Huggins said. “He straight-line drives guys in practice every day. He’ll play hard. And why not (lift the redshirt)? We’re floundering around at 8-7.”
Huggins’ plan going into the season was to preserve an extra season of eligibility for Doomes, because of the high number of guards the Mountaineers entered the season with.
“They all can’t play,” Huggins said earlier this season.
But, Jordan McCabe and Brandon Knapper haven’t developed as point guards the way Huggins would like and the Mountaineers have also struggled with a number of injuries to Beetle Bolden.
Chase Harler is shooting 37 percent from the field and hasn’t made more than one field goal in a game since Dec. 4 against Florida.
Jermaine Haley appears to be Huggins’ choice at point guard, and while he’s shooting 44 percent from the field, he’s only a 25 percent shooter from 3-point range and he doesn’t shoot very often to begin with. The only players on scholarship who have shot the ball less than Haley are first-year forwards Andrew Gordon and Emmitt Matthews Jr.
While Doomes has practiced all season, he has yet to experience playing at the Division I level. That could change at noon Saturday, when the Mountaineers host Oklahoma State (7-8, 1-2).
Huggins’ bigger change may be in how he handles game planning and strategy.
The coach spoke a number of times after the loss about giving many of his players the benefit of the doubt when it came time to drawing up a play for them.
“The guys that we’re supposed to trust, that we’re supposed to count on, we give them the ball and they kick it out of bounds or run over somebody,” Huggins said.
Later, when asked a question about forward Derek Culver, who continues to develop into a top-notch freshman and had 17 points and 12 rebounds against the Wildcats, Huggins again spoke about being too trusting with his players.
“We’ve got to continue work harder with [Culver], because we’re working with some other guys, who, quite frankly, aren’t trustworthy,” Huggins said. “That’s not their fault. I’m the one who put the trust in them. They didn’t ask for it.”
Huggins mentioned no player by name, but senior forward Esa Ahmad had a costly turnover with 46.8 seconds remaining and his five turnovers in the game gave him 43 for the season, which is five more than he had in 21 games played last season.
Bolden was held scoreless and was 0 for 2 shooting. He is second on the team with 33 turnovers and appeared to have injured his left leg trying to take a charge with 14:37 remaining.
“This is my fault,” Huggins said. “This is 100 percent my fault. These are my guys. I recruited them. I should be smart enough to know what I got. And to continue to trust people that don’t deserve the trust, that’s on me.”