The West Virginia men’s basketball team lost to Coastal Carolina earlier this week, effectively putting an end to one of the worst seasons during Bob Huggins’ tenure as head coach.
Monday night’s defeat cemented West Virginia’s season record at 15-21 — the program’s worst since they finished 13-19 during the 2012-13 season and only their second 20-loss season in team history.
“Everybody wants to be the top dog, but they don’t want the responsibility of it,” Huggins said following the loss. “They want to run around, beat their chest and say, ‘I’m going to lead this team.’ Yeah, you have, [in] the wrong damn direction.”
Having a leader step up was the least of the team’s worries as, most importantly, they needed bodies to fill the rotation. Junior forward Sagaba Konate was sidelined for the rest of the season after suffering an injury in December while junior guard James “Beetle” Bolden also missed a large chunk of playing time with an injury.
In having to deal with the injury bug, as well as replacing forwards Esa Ahmad and Wesley Harris, who were kicked off the team in January due to a violation of athletic department policy, the team turned to their young players to fill the void.
“We’re a different team. We’re playing guys now we didn’t play before,” Huggins said following WVU’s March 6 win over Iowa State. “We’re a totally different team. We’re playing a bunch of young guys that like each other, play well together and want to win.”
Younger players like freshmen Jordan McCabe and Derek Culver were able to force their way into the rotation, eventually developing into core pieces for the team. McCabe ended the season having started 10 straight games, while
Culver finished the season as the team’s leading rebounder.
Things started to look up for the Mountaineers during the Big 12 Tournament. Despite being the lowest rated seed in the bracket, West Virginia was able to win two straight games — both upsets.
After the team’s semifinal exit, freshman guard Trey Doomes, who had only played in 46 minutes this season after having his redshirt status burned, announced he would transfer from the University. Doomes became the second Mountaineer to depart from Morgantown this season following Bolden, who announced his departure earlier in March.
At the conclusion of the Big 12 Tournament, the Mountaineers received a berth in the College Basketball Invitational. After a first round victory, the Mountaineers’ success ran dry, ending their season.
For the bulk of the season, the team was plagued by a variety of ailments. The Mountaineers ended the year with 546 total turnovers — the third most in the country.
Offensively, the team finished with a field goal percentage of 41.3 percent — good for 315th in the country out of 351 teams. For comparison, Gonzaga, who is the No. 1 team in field goal percentage, has converted 53.2 percent of their shots.
Even with the benefit of hindsight, questions about what could have been done differently linger around Huggins.
“Maybe I was trying to do the right thing by [the players], and maybe I was too soft on them from the time the season was over through this thing [the CBI],” Huggins said. “Maybe I should have practiced them harder. Maybe I should have ran them more.”