Contributors, Justin Jackson, Men's Basketball, Sports, WVU Sports

COLUMN: Another late-game situation goes against Mountaineers with loss to Texas

Maybe it was simply fate that for a second consecutive game that West Virginia players found themselves huddled up with coach Bob Huggins with the game on the line.

For a second consecutive time, too, the Mountaineers came out on the short end, this one an 82-81 loss against No. 20 Texas in front of 13,470 inside the Coliseum.

Malik Curry’s late-game 14-footer did not fall true Saturday against the Longhorns and there was no hero’s welcome back to the locker room, as WVU let another game slide away in the second half.

That simply does not tell the whole story, though, of this 2021-22 WVU team, which has now sunk into even more of a nightmarish tale of losing 13 of its last 14 games.

It was just a few nights ago — on the road against Iowa State — in which the Mountaineers had battled hard for 39 minutes only to see a late-game mishap turn the favor the other way.

That moment, too, began with a huddle, with Huggins looking at his guys and they are looking right back at him.

Huggins is drawing up a play, throwing Xs and Os all across his clipboard.

He erases them, and then draws up the play again, in order to get his points across to what he wants to happen and where his players are supposed to be to make it happen.

As most of us know, and true to how this season has mostly gone for WVU (14-15, 3-13), what happened on the floor next against Iowa State did not resemble anything that had been drawn up seconds earlier and Iowa State came away with a head-scratching win.

“Stuff like that, we can’t ever let that happen again,” Curry said. “As seniors, we couldn’t let that happen again.”

OK, so turn the page from that, and we fast forward to Saturday afternoon.

No. 20 Texas (21-8, 10-6) had the look of being the better team in the first half. The Longhorns rarely missed a shot and were dominating on the glass and WVU was simply one half away from taking another loss.

Except, a spark came in the second half. Texas began turning the ball over at critical times and Curry was now the one scoring at will — he finished with a career-high 27 points — either by driving to the basket or getting himself to the foul line.

And when Gabe Osabuohien found Taz Sherman with a beautiful pass on a back-door cut, Texas coach Cheris Beard was forced to call timeout with 10:31 remaining with WVU holding a 64-54 lead.

All of it set up one final Texas run, fueled by forward Timmy Allen, who scored 17 of his 26 points in the second half.

Allen got himself to the free-throw line 16 times, knocked in a bunch of shots around the rim and added 10 rebounds.

Which leads us to yet another late-game situation.

This one comes with nine seconds left. WVU is trailing, 82-81, but has the ball.

It is once again Huggins looking at the eyes of his players in the huddle.

“We were definitely locked in to get the ball in bounds and getting a shot,” Curry said. “We huddled as a team. The five guys on the floor, we huddled to make sure everybody knew where they were supposed to be.”

Huggins is clear and confident in that timeout, but no different than at any other time.

This time, his players didn’t line up the wrong way. They didn’t go out and do their own thing, but this is college basketball, and sometimes the pain does not go away just because you run a play the right way.

That, too, is a story of this team; even when the right things are done, bad things still happen.

“I thought what we ran, I don’t know how you get a better shot,” Huggins said. “They’re going to guard the basket. They’re not going to give you a lay-up. I don’t know how we could’ve got a better shot.”

Taz Sherman finds Curry on the inbounds pass and the point guard drifted to the top of the key.

His initial thought is to get to the rim and make a tough shot or get fouled, except the bigger and taller Allen is right in front of him.

Curry is forced to take a couple of dribbles and put up a jumper that just did not go in.

“We got what we wanted,” Curry said. “That’s a shot I have to make. That’s going to haunt me, especially when we’re in a drought and losing. That’s a shot I can’t get back. I felt like that was a good shot and it just didn’t go in.”

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