If No. 14 West Virginia’s 58-49 loss to No. 3 Kansas on Wednesday night at the WVU Coliseum looked familiar, it should.
It was almost an exact replica to the Mountaineers 60-53 loss at Kansas in the Big 12 season opener in January.
Let’s look at the similarities:
- West Virginia plays well and gets a solid halftime lead (WVU by six on Wednesday; WVU by seven in January)
- Kansas dominates the second half as the West Virginia offense disappears (WVU scored 19 second-half points Wednesday; WVU scored 23 second-half points in January)
- WVU freshman Oscar Tshiebwe plays the first half like one of the dominant big men in the country (12 points Wednesday, 15 in January)
- Tshiebwe goes silent in the second half (two points both games)
- WVU’s offense struggles mightily against one of the best defensive teams in the country (19-for-60 shooting, 19 turnovers Wednesday; 19-for-59 shooting, 16 turnovers in January)
It was a like a movie sequel where the beginning, middle, ending, hell almost the entire script, was the same as the original.
And now, for the protagonists from the Mountain State, a season of bright promise is taking on a darker outlook.
WVU (18-6, 6-5 Big 12) has lost back to back games and is staring into the abyss of a three-slide with a trip to No. 1 Baylor on Saturday. The home date with Kansas (21-3, 10-1) looked like the Mountaineers best opportunity to get a “signature” win for their NCAA Tournament resume. Instead, they are tagged with another loss, a too-frequent occurrence in conference play.
Five days ago, WVU held the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee early reveal. That was a high seed that likely would be coupled with a drivable opening round venue. Since the reveal, WVU is 0-2 which is likely to be 0-3 after Saturday. The smooth path and proximity advantages given high-seeded teams is beginning to slip away.
Now, coach Bob Huggins needs to try to find a way to right the ship – a ship of which he’s questioned the commitment of some of its crew.
Getting swept by an experienced and talented Kansas team is nothing to be ashamed of, especially for a team as young as WVU. It’s possible the youth of the Mountaineers is starting to catch up with them. Some players might be hitting the “wall” associated with playing at this level for the first time.
But those are rational reasons that don’t take away the sting of what feels like squandered opportunity. With seven games plus the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments left, the final script on the 2019-20 season is still a work in progress.
But when it comes to Kansas, we saw this movie in Lawrence, Kan. It wasn’t any better at the second showing in Morgantown.