Men's Basketball, WVU Sports

COLUMN: West Virginia gave Clemson 14 minutes of panic and confusion to turn its season around

MORGANTOWN — Somewhere in the back halls of the TD Arena late Friday night sat a bunch of dejected WVU men’s basketball players following an 11-point loss against Marquette.

Then again, maybe dejected isn’t the right word.

“They were embarrassed as I was,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said Sunday night on his radio postgame, after the Mountaineers erased a 10-point deficit with 14 minutes left to beat Clemson 66-59 to capture third place in the Charleston Classic.

Embarrassed by the fact that wasn’t the real WVU team that seemed as if it had no answers for what Marquette was throwing its way.

Embarrassed that a young and inexperienced team took the fight to the Mountaineers instead of the other way around.

“More than anything, they were as disappointed as everyone else the night before last,” said Huggins, who moved past Roy Williams for fourth place on the all-time Division I wins list with 904. “They were disappointed in themselves. They knew we didn’t do what we normally do.”

Which brings us to the 14-minute mark of the second half against Clemson on Sunday.

WVU (4-1) wasn’t exactly doing the right things at that point, either.

The Tigers began the second half making the first six shots they took. They were making those corner 3-pointers that absolutely killed WVU against Marquette.

Clemson was driving to the basket with ease. Tigers guard Al-Amir Dawes needed less than five minutes of the first half to surpass his season scoring average of 10.8 points per game.

It was all setting up another embarrassing moment for the Mountaineers, and, at that point, you really had to begin to wonder if this WVU team just had too many obstacles to overcome this season.

And then Taz Sherman manned-up on Dawes, forcing a shot-clock violation.

And then Malik Curry and Kedrian Johnson showed they had some pride in their defense, too.

And then Sean McNeil got into the act and Gabe Osabuohien kept harassing people and Pauly Paulicap came up with a tremendous blocked shot.

The last 14 minutes of West Virginia’s victory was maybe the hardest and most confusing 14 minutes any of those Clemson players had ever been through.

They were constantly trapped, ran at, double-teamed, bumped, banged and boxed out.

They were hounded, shoved around and, in the end, thrown aside like a wet dirty towel.

By the end of those 14 minutes, forget about Clemson’s lead evaporating, and think about how it went so bad.

Sure, McNeil finally got hot and made some really tough shots. He scored all 15 of his points in the second half with all 15 of them coming in those final 14 minutes.

Still, you have to look at the other end of the floor.

Clemson had three — THREE! — shot-clock violations.

The Tigers gave up 10 points off 10 turnovers.

Clemson players began taking shots that were so bad that one 3-point attempt from Dawes ended up getting stuck in between the backboard and the rim.

And that was maybe one of Clemson’s best shots in those final 14 minutes.

Things got so confusing, the Tigers actually played with six players on the floor coming out of a timeout.

I can’t remember the last time I ever saw anything like that in a major Division I game.

That’s what frustration, panic and confusion can cause and that’s what WVU caused in those final 14 minutes.

And if these Mountaineers do end up being a team that gets back into the national rankings and makes a push up the Big 12 standings, it just may all go back to those 14 minutes in Charleston, S.C.

“I told our guys before the game, ‘Guys, right now we’re an embarrassment. We didn’t play,’ ” Huggins said. “They came out today and played.”

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