West Virginia continues to struggle to close out games
Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 07:01
For the West Virginia women’s basketball team, its inability to close out games and play a full 40 minutes is becoming a very familiar trend.
WVU (11-8, 3-5 Big 12 Conference) fell to No. 24 Iowa State Saturday night by four points – the second consecutive game the Mountaineers have lost by four points. While it appeared West Virginia could break away from Iowa State following a double-digit lead in the first half, the Cyclones played solidly in the second half, led by junior forward Haley Christofferson.
For the Mountaineers, however, this type of loss has been the key theme for the season and a disappointing entrance into the Big 12 Conference.
"We didn’t get the ball movement we needed to get," said junior forward Jess Harlee, following the 53-49 loss to Iowa State. "It’s really frustrating. I know everybody’s really frustrated about it. We’re just trying to get a win, and it’s really frustrating that we can’t get one right now."
With the exception of one game this season, West Virginia has lost by fewer than 10 points in each defeat. In fact, four of the eight WVU losses have come by fewer than five points (Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas Tech and Iowa State).
West Virginia has lacked the mental focus to compete and put together a solid game of basketball. There are often times when it appears that the Mountaineers look significantly better than the opponent, but the scoring inabilities in the second half have really created problems.
"I think it’s just the focus," Harlee said. "There’s times when we need to play better defense and times when we can’t get points. We’re a defensive team so we need to play better defense when we can’t score. I think that’s the main thing and box out, rebound and get the little things that we’re not doing right now."
It would be one thing if the Mountaineers were losing 15- or 20-point games, but these four-point losses are another thing that must be so mentally exhausting.
"This is very frustrating," said senior center Ayana Dunning. "We’ve lost four games now by a total of 12 points. It’s frustrating because we’re right there. They are obviously games that we can win. We’re just letting the little things beat us – whether it’s concentration or not buckling down.
"We’re doing small things that are letting the game go away. My mindset is that we need to be more aggressive. In the second half, you know teams are going to make a run so you have to come out and match their energy. I know we had nine assists in the first half and in the second half we only had one. So that just goes to show that we weren’t really moving the ball and kind of standing around and holding it."
As Dunning pointed out, West Virginia needs to learn how to be one step more aggressive than the opponent. In a league as talented as the Big 12 Conference, there will be opponents who can shoot the ball and win those battles on the glass as Iowa State did (35-22)(I thought we lost by four points? isn’t this the rebound adv?).
"I think in the Big 12, you just need to be focused game in and game out," Dunning said. "Just because of the versatility and the players. My mindset is that I’m glad we get to play everybody twice.
"So obviously, we have the confidence that we can beat these teams. We just need to do the little things. Being able to watch film on them against us will really help us."
WVU will now look to avoid its first four-game losing streak as it takes on Oklahoma State Tuesday night in Stillwater, Okla.