Contributors, Justin Jackson

COLUMN: Same problems continue to plague Mountaineers vs. TCU as season spirals

Even in Bill Murray’s movie “Groundhog Day,” a film where Murray kept reliving the same day until he finally got it right, Murray eventually got to walk off into the sunset with the girl.

West Virginia’s version of playing the same game over and over again looks like it has no ending in sight, and the Mountaineers aren’t likely to walk off into some picturesque sunset if they ever find a way to change things.

TCU walked away with a 77-67 victory Monday night at the Schollmaier Arena, and the Horned Frogs’ key to success are not unfamiliar to anyone who has followed the Mountaineers this season.

TCU won the rebounding battle … big time.

TCU drove it constantly to the basket and got a bunch of points around the rim.

WVU experienced another second-half letdown and some of its 11 turnovers were just mind-boggling in that guys simply dropped passes or had the ball taken right out of their own hands.

“They made hard cuts and really put pressure on the rim,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said of TCU.

We didn’t respond to it very well. When you almost get doubled in rebounds and continuously turn the ball over, you’re not going to win.”

The Mountaineers (14-13, 3-11 Big 12) have now lost 11 of their last 12 games, which is bad enough.

Making things worse is all of these problems have been there since before the losing streak. WVU found ways to compensate before, but that’s not happening now.

But, you can go back and look at it. Rebounding was a huge issue even when WVU was once 13-2 on the season.

No joke here, but Pitt — and the Panthers are a comedy of errors — out-rebounded WVU 36-20 back in November, but WVU found a way to win.

Getting killed in the paint has always been an issue.

Connecticut, which is what amounts to West Virginia’s best moment of the season, still came away with a 34-20 advantage in points in the paint in that game, but WVU found a way to win that one, too.

TCU had 40 points in the paint, and this is not a Horned Frogs team blessed with a ton of gifted players.

This is a TCU team that has struggled to score and shoot the ball all season.

It didn’t look like it Monday. The Horned Frogs shot 54% (29 of 54) for the game, and that would have been so much better if TCU players hadn’t missed four dunks.

“They ran by us the whole first half,” Huggins said.

The frustration was clear on the face of Taz Sherman after the game, and it’s Sherman who is maybe the one guy you feel for the most, because he decided to come back this season and make something positive after the Mountaineers had already lost their two best players in Deuce McBride and Derek Culver, who left to play professionally.

It’s clear now what exactly those two guys meant to this program, and it’s clear there is no replacing them.

“It’s the story of the whole season, we didn’t come out and play in the second half,” he said. “We didn’t rebound. We didn’t defend. We just have to do better. That’s all I’ve got to say. We’re getting tired of losing, so it’s difficult for me to do this. We just have to play better.”

Somewhere along the way, WVU quit finding ways to win and the Mountaineers just don’t have the athletes capable of making up for their own shortcomings.

That’s not going to change all of a sudden. You just don’t wake up one day and suddenly become a better team when you’ve been doing the same things over and over again since the start of the season.

Maybe that’s the realization that’s hitting this team right now, and the frustrating part is there are no answers on how to exit this reoccurring nightmare.

“It’s difficult, because you not only want to win for yourself, but you want to win for the team. You want to win for the coaching staff and you want to win for your family,” Sherman said. “We constantly have people watching us every game hoping that we’re going to do better and we aren’t.”

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