After losing to No. 1 Gonzaga Wednesday night, West Virginia University men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins was very clear in his postgame conference about what went wrong for the Mountaineers.
“I thought we were prepared to win, we just didn’t do what we need to do,” Huggins said. “We didn’t run the floor, we didn’t take care of the ball, I could sit here and give you 50 things that we shouldn’t have done, but we did. We’ve got to fix it, they’ve got to fix it. I can show them how to fix it, but they’ve got to fix it. And I think they will.”
Despite holding a 39-34 lead at halftime, the No. 11 Mountaineers (3-1) fell to the top-ranked Bulldogs (3-0), 87-82, in the first game of the Jimmy V Classic. Junior forward Derek Culver said the team grew content with its first-half lead and did not play as hard after halftime.
“I feel like be plateaued in the second half,” Culver said. “We didn’t come out as aggressive as we did the first half. We just got content with the lead that we had and that just carried over into the second half and we got very nonchalant.”
Despite leading the team with 18 points and 15 rebounds, Culver said he blamed himself for WVU’s loss.
“With all due respect to Gonzaga, they’re a really good team, but we had them today,” Culver said. “I will put the blame on myself. I lost this game for us because there were a couple of times that I had the ball and blindside help came and they knocked the ball out of my hand. I feel like I lost this game for me and my teammates.”
Culver was tied for the team lead with four turnovers, but Huggins said the loss was on everyone, not just Culver.
“I think we all ought to shoulder the blame,” Huggins said. “I think every guy that got back-cut should shoulder blame, I think every guy who didn’t block out, every guy who went to the free-throw line and missed two free throws, I think everybody ought to shoulder the blame. I think our coaching staff ought to shoulder the blame.”
Huggins said he was upset because his players did not execute the gameplan the coaching staff had put together. Culver said that was especially frustrating because he felt they should have been ready for everything the Bulldogs threw at them.
“What makes me so mad is they didn’t show us anything that we have not seen, they didn’t show us anything that we couldn’t guard,” Culver said. “We shot ourselves in the foot.”
Huggins said his players knew what they needed to do and just did not do it.
“Everbody says ‘you learn from this’, what are you going to learn from losing? I don’t see that,” Huggins said. “We knew when they dribbled at us they were going to back-cut us. We knew that and we still let them do it.”
Fouls were a problem late for the Mountaineers. Culver ended the game with four fouls, but his fellow big men Oscar Tshiebwe and Gabe Osabuohien both fouled-out in the second half.
“They’re going to get fouls and I fully realized they’re going to get fouls playing where they play,” Huggins said. “The dumb ones are what kills us, and we made dumb ones. Oscar got his [fifth] foul because he didn’t run the floor…Gabe tried to steal the ball and reached in and fouled the guy. They know better than that.”
After starting the season by playing four games in seven days, the Mountaineers will have four days off before a game against Georgetown in the BigEast/Big 12 Battle on Sunday.
“We’ve just got work to do, that’s all,” Huggins said. “It’s not like we’re a veteran-laden team, we’re playing a lot of young guys.”