Huggins In Search Of Answers

Reeling WVU welcomes Kansas State to town

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University head men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins has been doing what he’s doing for a long time. But even the veteran leader of the No. 15-ranked Mountaineers (16-6 overall, 5-4 Big 12) is at a loss for words to describe the Mountaineers’ recent slide down the AP Top 20.

“I don’t have any answers,” Huggins complained following WVU’s 93-77 setback at Iowa State on Wednesday. “I have been doing this for 40 years and I don’t have answers. I could sit here and lie and make stuff up, but I really don’t have the answers.”

And, Huggins has little time to search for them as a red-hot Kansas State squad invades the Coliseum for a 4 p.m. tipoff today.

“They’ve been hot, and we haven’t,” the Mountaineers boss lamented during Thursday’s Big 12 Teleconference. “The schedule has been tough. We have played really good people and we have the most one-day turnarounds of anybody in the league.

“Combine that with our travel schedule, and that’s rough. We have five and Kansas has four. Everybody else has maybe two. Nobody flies as far and as long as we do. You get back at 5:30 in the morning and you’re pretty tired, too. That’s part of it, but not all of it.”

Loser of five of its last six contests, WVU fans witnessed sporadic shooting in losses to Texas Tech, TCU, Kansas and Kentucky and even in a win over Baylor. But, it was a defense — or lack of one — that sent the Mountaineers down against the Cyclones.

“These guys have singlehandedly destroyed ‘Press Virginia,’ “ Huggins said. “We can’t press anybody.”

That problem showed its ugly head in the Mountaineers’ first encounter with KSU. The press accounted for only 15 turnovers which WVU turned into only 17 points as the Wildcats kept the game close before dropping a 77-69 decision at Bramlage Coliseum.

Freshman Teddy Allen had his second consecutive offensive explosion with a game-high 22 points as WVU improved to 2-0 in conference play and 13-1 overall.

In fact, the KSU defense forced more turnovers (18) and tallied more points off turnovers (25) than its conference rival.

KSU is coming off a 70-56 loss to No. 7 Kansas on ‘Big Monday’ and come to Morgantown sporting identical overall (16-6) and Big 12 (5-4) marks as WVU.

Forward Xavier Sneed led the Wildcats with 20 points — 17 in the second half — in his first encounter with the Mountaineers. Dean Wade and Barry Brown chipped in 17 and 14 points, repectively.

Sophomore Lamont West, who has been in a shooting slump the last six games (9 of 34), poured in 19 points while Daxter Miles Jr. and James ‘Beetle’ Bolden chipped in 10 each.

“We miss point-blank shot after point-blank shot,” Huggins said. “We come out of the huddle — and I’ve never had that in 40 years — and we have guys not in the right position. We do not practice the way we practiced in the past.

“We have to practice the way these guys practiced early in the year. I wish I could put a finger on what it is. I don’t know if we got to thinking we were better than we were or are, or I have a bunch of lazy guys.”

Hopefully, Huggins will have Miles back today. The Mountaineers’ second-leading scorer (12.8 ppg) missed the ISU game with an illness. Making his second career start replacing Miles was Moundsville native Chase Harler.

If Miles is a go, the senior will team up with senior Jevon Carter at the guards with sophomores Sagaba Konate and Wesley Harris teaming up with either West or junior Esa Ahmad at the forwards.