If your child sits up in bed suddenly, screaming and in a deep panic, do not worry about it. They were most likely asleep and dreaming about watching the West Virginia basketball team after halftime. Therefore, they were just having a nightmare so roll over and go back to bed.
That was the case on Saturday night in Morgantown.
Another national television audience, another huge first half lead and another deflating loss for the West Virginia Mountaineers after they built a 17-point lead early in the second half en route to an 83-76 defeat at the hands of Kentucky.
Herein lies the problem:
Well, I actually don’t know. And by the looks of it, I’m not sure Bob Huggins and his coaching staff know either. The problem is that there are way too many problems with this team over the last couple of weeks, but the one that is sticking out like a sore thumb right now is the second half of games.
The Mountaineers have now lost four of their last five games after being ranked #2 in the nation for the first time since Jerry West played at the school (1959) and he has been gone so long there is a huge statue of him at the Coliseum doors.
The number two ranking was probably a bit high, but WVU’s resume’ was as good as anybody’s, however now it is filling up with losses rather quickly.
The team chemistry doesn’t seem to be clicking at the moment. Whether it’s the return of Esa Ahmad, WVU is 1-4 with him, the travel throughout the Midwest or a tougher schedule; remains to be seen, and even then a clear answer may not be noticed.
In their last four losses to Texas Tech, Kansas, TCU and Kentucky, the Mountaineers have had leads of 11, 16, 7 and 17 points in those contests. Shortly thereafter it’s hide your eyes fans and turn off the TV because what’s coming next has become totally predictable and totally unexplainable.
It truly is a tale of two halves. In the first half, the Mountaineers drain three after three, Sagaba Konate blocks everything in sight and the opponent looks so disoriented against the press that it’s almost so funny that it’s sad. But the second half starts and there is no energy, no shooting and no emotion.
A couple years ago, when West Virginia was truly Press Virginia, opposing coaches would talk in their postgame press conferences about how tough it was to play a half against WVU, go sit at halftime for 15 minutes, then have to come back out and do it all over again. Eventually, a lot of the teams would just basically give up and be happy when the game was over.
However, now it seems as if West Virginia is Press Virginia-ing themselves. They come out on fire and energized in the first half and look like legitimate Final Four contenders, then go sit for 15 minutes at halftime, then have to do it all over again. Their own style seems to be working against them badly lately and their tired legs may be the reason they cannot buy a bucket.
And that could be even more true when they get a big lead. It is natural to let up a little when a lead grows and grows because a team thinks they have a little margin for error. It’s kind of like having a job with sales goals. If an employee gets close to their goal in the first quarter of the year, then quits trying because he/she thinks the rest will just fall in their lap, they end up not meeting the goal. It’s called relaxing, or coasting.
But a team without any McDonald’s All-Americans and only one four-star recruit on the roster who acts like he would rather be anywhere else, cannot afford to do that. As Huggins has said over and over this year, “We aren’t good enough to do that.”
To put it simply, fans are frustrated. Twitter and Facebook are filled with typical WVU statuses right now. It’s unfortunate, but true.
Teddy Allen’s benching also lit up the social media world just two weeks ago and people are learning quickly that he isn’t ready to be the savior everyone wants him to be. He started showing up on opposing team’s scouting reports and he has yet to figure out how to counter act one of them.
West Virginia still has not learned how to deal with success. Whether it’s a top five ranking or a big lead in a single game, they just do not have the makeup to deal with it.
Huggins also said his team changed once they got ranked high. He was quoted as saying, “it’s like I have new guys.” Basically, they thought they were on top of the world and could not be touched, but when does that attitude leave this athletic program? Will it be after the Kentucky loss? After this season? After next season?
Something needs to change quickly. Maybe not even change, but just go back to the way it was before the Mountaineers showed up in Lubbock, Texas leading 47-36 with nine minutes left in the game. Before that moment, everything was wonderful. Maybe it will happen this Wednesday when the Mountaineers play at Iowa State in a critical game.
It’s either that or talk to the college basketball rules committee about playing 20 minutes of instead of 40.