The emotions related to West Virginia’s 67-60 overtime loss at TCU on Saturday would fit seamlessly into the opening paragraph of the Charles Dickens classic Tale of Two Cities.
It was totally inexplicable, it was totally expectant.
Slip this game behind “It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity” https://www.memorablequotations.com/Cities.htm.
With 87 percent of the regular season and 77 percent of the conference regular season completed, in regards to this particular version of the West Virginia basketball team, what we’ve seen is what we’re going to get. Another late, great philosopher, Dennis Green, can surmise it best https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kRpS8mwJ14.
West Virginia (19-8, 7-7 Big 12) had no business losing to TCU (15-12, 6-8). Yet here we are – again.
Again, the Mountaineers lose a conference game on the road (1-6 this season). Again, West Virginia shoots poorly from the field (25-of-62, 40.3 percent). Again, West Virginia shoots poorly from the foul line (8-for-15, 53.3 percent). Again, the Mountaineers shoot from 3-point range (2-for-17, 11.8 percent) like their starring in Bird Box https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WU2okMlQdeI.
It’s time to accept that the Mountaineers are who they’re showing us they are.
- The shooting woes present a lower ceiling for this team than it appeared to have through the first quarter of conference play. There just aren’t consistent outside shooters to allow the Mountaineers to score enough to advance deep into either the Big 12 or NCAA tournaments. The lack of a credible outside threat also jams up the inside for Derek Culver, Oscar Tshiebwe and the other WVU big men. With teams not respecting the Mountaineers jump shooters, points in the paint become exponentially harder to come by.
- This team is too young to handle the road in the Big 12. The 1-6 conference road record speaks for itself. After some really bad road efforts early in conference play (losing 84-68 at last-place Kansas State being the worst example), the hope was that the team would mature and better handle winnable conference road contests. Laying an egg in a less than half-full gym in Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday afternoon shows that hasn’t happened.
- Saturday’s upset loss at TCU was more than just an issue with playing on the road, however. A change in venue from Morgantown to Fort Worth isn’t worth the 39-point swing between the Mountaineers 32-point win in January and their seven-point loss Saturday. It appears that this young team has hit the “wall.” West Virginia is the youngest team in the Big 12. Many of the Mountaineers players are playing more and tougher games than they have in their lives. This happens. A lot. Even though coach Bob Huggins goes 10 deep, it’s possible – actually probable – that the wear and tear of Power 6 conference basketball is taking its toll.
The bright spots in this very dark defeat was the offensive effort of Taz Sherman. Sherman is becoming the Mountaineers most consistent scoring guard. He had 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting (2-for-5 from 3-point range) in the loss.
Culver at times single handedly keep the Mountaineers in the game. He finished with a double-double, tallying team highs in points (18) and rebounds (12).
The dark spots were very dark. TCU’s 19-2 run from late in the first half through the start of the second half might be the darkest moment of the season. The Mountaineers led, 31-21, and seemed in prime position to bury the inferior Horned Frogs. But then TCU absolutely dominated WVU in a way it never should have been allowed. A game that was firmly in place for the Mountaineers to take control of turned into a 41-33 hole they spent the rest of the second half digging themselves out from.
Tshiebwe had one of his ghost games Saturday. He played 15 minutes and had one point and five rebounds. The freshman’s inconsistency that sometimes results in performances like Saturday is one of the reasons Tshiebwe is more likely than not to return for his sophomore season.
Culver and Sherman were the only Mountaineers in double-figure scoring. No one else had more than six points. This speaks to the offensive deficits Huggins faces.
The Mountaineers will make another attempt at righting a sinking ship Monday when they return to the road to play Texas.
When the Mountaineers and Longhorns met in Morgantown in January WVU throttled Texas by 38 points.
But as WVU showed at TCU on Saturday, that has little bearing on current events.