WVU loses Big 12 opener
MORGANTOWN – West Virginia coach Bob Huggins has used every adjective in the book and even some that aren’t to describe his teams during the years.
“Soft” was never one of them.
But that’s the way the coach was talking after Saturday’s 67-57 loss to Oklahoma in the Mountaineers Big 12 opener at the Coliseum.
“The fact of the matter is, (the Sooners) just wanted to win to win more than we did,” Huggins said. “They outrebounded us (40-39). We throw it close and come up empty. They throw it close and they score, get fouled, go to the line and make free throws.”
The Mountaineers shot a paltry 30 percent (18 of 60) and had only seven two-point field goals. They did make 11 3-pointers, including six by freshman Terry Henderson, who led the way with 21 points.
But Huggins said games like that are still winnable. And then he offered an example, thinking back to his early days as WVU’s coach when guys like Da’Sean Butler, Alex Ruoff, and Cam Thoroughman were in uniform.
He talked about a game at Old Miss where “it seemed like Ruoff missed a hundred shots in a row in the corner” and Da’Sean missed shots, he said. “But we rebounded. Then we went down and did a pretty good job guarding on the other end.”
These Mountaineers did not.
With the help of those Henderson 3-pointers, West Virginia (7-6 overall, 0-1 Big 12) led 35-29 at halftime and pushed it as high as 12 three minutes into the second half before a collapse that has become customary with this team happened again.
“We’re not really a good second-half team,” Henderson said.
In the last 10 minutes of Saturday’s game, West Virginia made just 3 of 13 shots, was outscored 23-9 , and was outrebounded 13-7. It coughed up what was left of that lead and wound up losing by two handfuls.
The last two minutes were even worse. With four possessions, they turned it over twice, missed two shots, and gave up one of four Oklahoma dunks. The Sooners had a 30-10 advantage in the paint as Deniz Kilicli (three points, six rebounds) and Aaric Murray (eight points, four rebounds) were mostly non-factors.
“I know they had five consecutive misses on first shots,” Huggins said. “And I know they had five consecutive offensive rebounds. “They just outmanned us. They were just tougher on the glass than we were.
“It’s my fault. I take total responsibility. It’s my fault.”
The Mountaineers held that six-point lead at halftime despite making only two two-point field goals. They were 9 of 19 beyond the arc, as Henderson hit five 3-pointers in a span of 6:15. He had 18 points at that point and was well on his way of obliterating his career high of 23. Instead, he didn’t even reach it.
“Effort, focus, fatigue,” were all things Henderson pointed to as issues for his mates, pretty much covering the entire spectrum of don’t-dos. “It’s very frustrating.”
Romero Osby led the Sooners (10-3, 1-0) with 21 points. Steven Pledger added 12.