Struggles continue for West Virginia against Pitt
Published: Monday, January 30, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 00:01
It's not often that the West Virginia men's basketball team finds itself in a funk.
The Mountaineers started the season with an exhibition loss to Division II Northern Kentucky and a ten-point loss at the hands of Kent State at the Coliseum, but they won 14 of their next 18 games and it looked like they were heading back in the right direction.
But, since hitting the road to face St. John's, those problems have come back to haunt WVU once again.
It lost its third game in a row Monday night, this time at the hands of a Pittsburgh team that has won three straight since opening the Big East Conference schedule 0-7.
And losing three in a row is something this Mountaineer team just isn't used to.
"I've never lost three straight games," said senior guard Truck Bryant. "We have to find a way to get better. We have to bring it every night."
What is plaguing the Mountaineers right now isn't something head coach Bob Huggins can get them to do in practice.
It simply comes down to the mindset with which the team enters games.
"Some things have not changed (since the beginning of the season)," said junior forward Deniz Kilicli. "What we have is mental … it's not the sets, not the playcalls, nothing else. It's mental stuff.
"If it didn't change in this many months, I don't think it's going to change in six days."
West Virginia hasn't lost three games in a row since Huggins has been at the school and the first time it has dropped this many straight since the 2005-06 season.
With eight more games remaining in Big East play, the Mountaineers know they need to turn things around.
If not, they could be in jeopardy of missing the NCAA tournament after being projected to be as high as a No. 3-seed before it lost to St. John's. And they're starting to feel that sense of urgency that things have to change now.
"We've got to win at least five," Kilicli said. "We've got to just mentally be ready.
"We're the ones playing. If we want to do what we want to do, we've got to fix this. We're really not in good shape right now."
Some of the problems the Mountaineers have had on the court during the current three-game slide stem from their inability to hold onto the ball.
In the losses to St. John's, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, WVU turned the ball over 41 times and had 43 assists.
It also struggled to find consistency when it started to go on a run. But that's something Huggins said they've been trying to fix all season.
"We get on a run, we're passing the ball and we're playing pretty good and some guy will decide that he has to show everyone that he can't dribble," Huggins said. "I've never had a team give up this many layups in a crucial situation."
Struggles were expected to come for this WVU team with so many young players on the roster playing meaningful minutes. But it thought that, by now, they would have been able to avoid slumps like this.
"I felt like we were going to win all these games," Kilicli said. "Last year, I could tell if we were going to lose within the first five minutes. This year that's not the case.
"We can beat any team. I don't know what to say, it's really frustrating."