MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Miles McBride said he understood what was being asked of him in the game’s final moments Saturday.
What started out the right way for the freshman guard from Cincinnati with five seconds left on the game clock, ended with him taking an 18-footer from the right side while leaning back at the buzzer.
“They guarded it pretty well,” McBride said after West Virginia’s 70-68 loss against St. John’s at Madison Square Garden. “I got forced to the sideline way too far. I was supposed to keep it more in the middle of the floor. They got me pinned and I didn’t take the right angle. I should have made the refs make a call, even if it was an offensive foul.”
Huggins said none of that happened — “Deuce came down and took a shot he didn’t need to take,” he said. — before taking a quick flashback to a game against St. John’s in 2008, where Joe Mazzulla was called on to run the exact same play.
“It was the same thing, only I told Joe Mazzulla to attack the rim and he attacked the rim,” Huggins said.
Mazzulla not only attacked the rim and scored on a lay-up, he ended up falling into a host of St. John’s cheerleaders, who graciously helped him back up to his feet.
There was no such ending for McBride or the Mountaineers (7-1), who were handed their first loss of the season, but it went much further than those final five seconds.
Much like those final moments, WVU’s offense for the other 39 minutes didn’t go as expected, either.
At one point in the game, Huggins screamed out, “Kentucky,” in calling for a particular set.
West Virginia threw one pass to the corner and launched a 3-pointer, which infuriated Huggins.
Apparently “Kentucky” is not a one-pass set to the corner for a 3-point attempt.
“I couldn’t tell what we ran, because it was nothing like I said to run,” Huggins said afterward.
At other times, Huggins said his players didn’t recognize when players were open. He was also disappointed in forwards Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver for not being more aggressive when they caught the ball near the rim.
“We’d throw it a foot from the basket and then whistle one out over some guy’s head out of bounds instead of trying to score,” Huggins said. “When you’re 6-foot-9 or 6-10 and you have a 6-4 guy on you, you’ve got to put it in the basket.”
West Virginia was forced into a season-high 22 turnovers. Most of which did not come against St. John’s full-court press, but rather from making a bad read and bad passes while trying to run the offense.
“It was kind of hard for us to get into our sets,” McBride said. “They put pressure on the ball and we weren’t crisp in our sets and our passes. That’s on us. As a point guard, we’ve got to do a better job of getting guys in the right spot.”
Huggins wasn’t as quick to throw all of the blame at St. John’s defense.
Instead, he looked at his own players and said they continue to dribble the ball too much instead of simply making a pass to an open teammate, which has been a consistent problem dating back to last season.
“What got us out of what we wanted was guys dribbling the damn ball,” Huggins said. “Everybody who catches it has to make sure they can dribble it. We’ve got to fix that. We got guys open and we don’t deliver the ball. We’ve got to fix that. That’s my job.”