Column - After another loss, WVU finds itself in ‘desperate times’
Published: Sunday, February 26, 2012
Updated: Monday, February 27, 2012 00:02
Heading into Friday's game against No. 10 Marquette, it didn't look like things were able to get much worse for West Virginia.
The Mountaineers had just lost for the sixth time in their last eight games in a 71-44 dismantling at the hands of No. 20 Notre Dame – the most they've lost by since a 38-point loss to Villanova in January 2005.
Their NCAA tournament hopes seemed to be unraveling at the seams, but all could change with an upset on their home floor against the Golden Eagles.
Through one half, it looked like WVU was well on its way toward steering the ship back on track when it went into the locker room with an 11-point lead.
And that's when things went wrong.
With the help of starters Darius Johnson-Odom, Vander Blue and junior Cadougan who all returned to play in the second half after being suspended for the first 20 minutes, Marquette and head coach Buzz Williams came storming back to dance (literally) out of the Coliseum with a 61-60 victory.
It was the largest halftime lead WVU has blown at the Coliseum since Notre Dame turned a 15-point deficit at the break into a three-point win more than 10 years ago during the 2001-02 season.
Since they've started losing, the Mountaineers have admitted there has been more of a sense of urgency. But following Friday's loss, that mind-set has changed into something a little stronger as they head into the final two games of the year.
"It's panic," said senior guard Truck Bryant. "We have to win two."
Bryant's senior counterpart Kevin Jones agreed with his feelings.
"It's definitely a desperate time for us right now. I know me, Truck and Turk (junior Deniz Kilicli) being the upperclassmen, we won't let the younger guys hold their heads down," he said.
"I'm not going to give up, I know my teammates aren't going to give up. I won't allow them to give up, and we're just going to keep on fighting, and we'll go from there."
But, it's the lack of fight in this WVU team that has head coach Bob Huggins worried the most.
During his postgame press conference following Friday's loss, Huggins mentioned the lack of fire his team has played with.
"I've been doing this for 30 years. We never got outmanned the way we got outmanned today. We've never been outmanned," Huggins said. "I despise cowards. Somebody who has an opportunity to play at the highest level of major college basketball who's afraid to step in front of a guy and take a charge?
"I can't fathom accepting a scholarship and not competing."
So, following all that's happened the last few weeks, does Jones believe this team is good enough to get into the NCAA tournament?
Not right now they aren't.
"If we win these next two games, we will be an NCAA tournament team, but as of now and the way we're playing, we're not an NCAA tournament team," Jones said. "I don't feel comfortable ... It's going to take a lot, a whole lot, for us to go to the NCAA tournament."
And, for a senior class that consists of two of the better players this program has had in recent years- including Jones who will go down as one of the best to ever wear a West Virginia uniform, it would just be the wrong end to a great career.
Jones and Bryant know that. Huggins knows that.
Now it's time for everyone else to step up and fight their way into the tournament.
"If I'm a freshman, I'm looking at Kevin Jones and everything he's done for this program, and I'm saying that I will do anything I can to make sure he ends his career the right way," Huggins said.