It’s difficult to whittle last night’s blowout loss down to a small number of instances that left an indelible mark. But I did. Seems to most that it’s far too late in the season for a good team, or at least improving one, to make the mistakes it made in the first games of the seasons.
Yet there was WVU, in game No. 24, turning the ball over 18 times. The season-high was 20 in the opener at Gonzaga. The Mountaineers had an alarming number of what they call live ball turnovers, which are the ones that happen in play and lead to the other team grabbing the miscue and running the other way.
Think Eron Harris spinning around at the top of the key and getting his pocket picked by Pierre Jackson for what would have been a dunk if not for some hustle by Harris and a foul — shallow praise, I know.
But there were two turnovers in particular that boggled the minds of many and they’ve been issues all season long.
WVU can’t seem to inbound a basketball without an adventure. There were two more visible and important episodes Wednesday night and Bob Huggins was without explanations, except to say it is inexplicable as he washed his hands of it.
The first was on WVU’s second possession and it was a gem. Gary Browne had the ball on the baseline under his basket and waited and waited and then just short of arched a pass to no one in particular. Jackson caught it and raced the other way for a layup as start of a 7-0 lead and WVU’s uphill battle from the jump.
“I don’t know what they ran when we threw them the ball the first time,” Huggins said. “I have no idea. I’ve never seen that out of bounds play. We’ve never lined up like that. I’ve never seen it. I don’t know what the hell they were doing.”
That was wonderful. You should have heard him. He was speeding through the explanation, as though he was wound up over how stupefying it was. And it was something to behold. Nobody was moving. Everyone was huddled up in the right corner near Browne.
Had he thrown the ball to the open space on the left, as opposed to doing what he did, maybe WVU can win a race to the ball. Maybe there’s a scrum and, at worst, Baylor gets a steal, but no transition.
Heck, taking a five seconds call could have been a better decision. Then again …
The second was a whopper, too. Brady Heslip had just hit an open 3 and WVU, down four at the half, was down nine early in the second half. Huggins called a timeout, put Browne in the game, I guess to trigger the inbound, and worked something up in the huddle.
Browne took a five seconds violation for the fourth turnover in the half’s first 4:50.
“If we can’t hear the coach, the point guard is supposed to call a play,” WVU guard Eron Harris said. “I guess he didn’t know what to call and then it was too late. We ended up running around and he couldn’t get the ball in.”
WVU moved around on that one, but with no clear direction. Browne had no chance and a pass-for-the-sake-of-passing, as I suggested above, would have have been a bad idea because it was under Baylor’s basket. Then again …
Still, WVU was clearly shocked after the whistle and people were looking at one another, like they wanted to assign blame. Baylor then organized, threw the ball in and set some screens for Heslip and the Mountaineers didn’t switch on the screens like they were supposed to. Heslip hit another 3 for a 48-36 lead.
Well, it doesn’t look good. That loss wasn’t much different from the Oklahoma State loss, complete with a stunning refusal to cover a one-dimensional, though talented offensive player. In between were four games — and a 3-1 record — that suggested maybe WVU had gotten out of WVU’s way.
Maybe not. Just a lot of turnovers, mental miscues and retreat for a team that should be better at those things at this stage of the season, unless that team is no better than its track record.
“It’s happened all year long,” WVU Coach Bob Huggins said. “You can’t drill everything every day. As it is, we go three hours and everybody thinks I’m insane. We go three hours, but you can’t drill everything every day. At some point, you have to be a basketball player.”