Even with adding JUCO shooters Sean McNeil and Taz Sherman for this season, West Virginia is the third-worst shooting team in the Big 12 (42%) and dead last in the conference in three-point shooting (28.3%).
The inability to make shots has plagued the Mountaineers all season, but in Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma, those struggles started to seep into other areas of WVU’s game.
“When you miss as many shots as we’ve missed…It gets to you, so I don’t think you play as hard defensively,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said. “I looked down our bench and we’ve got a whole bunch of guys with their heads down. If I missed that many I’d have my head down too I think.”
The Mountaineers shot just 24-70 (34.3%) from the floor against the Sooners and an abysmal 4-25 (16%) from three-point range. The 21 missed three-pointers were the most missed by WVU in a game so far this season.
“Seemingly they were all short,” Huggins said.
West Virginia has lost six of its last seven games and Huggins’s theory of missed shots leading to weaker defense holds water in that span.
In all six of those losses, West Virginia did not hold an opponent to lower than 44.4% shooting.
Huggins thinks the poor perimeter offense is also starting to drag down the team’s interior production.
“We did a lot of things out of character too,” Huggins said. “Some of the shots Derek (Culver) took, he hasn’t taken shot like that. (He usually) passes it back out and reestablishes…but you stand there and you watch us miss shot after shot after shot from the perimeter and you’re an inside guy, you say ‘throw it in here’.”
Culver shot just 2-11 from the floor Saturday afternoon, nine misses are his second-most in a single game this season and the most since the season opener vs Akron.
The baffling thing about the team’s shooting struggles is that the players have no idea what is going wrong.
“It’s just not going in,” senior Chase Harler said. “It’s weird, we make them in practice. Guys come in and get extra shots up, they’re just not going in during the game which is kind of weird.”
“We make shots in practice and for some reason, we come out here and it just doesn’t fall,” freshman Miles McBride said. “I think we still boarded pretty well, we’ve just got to finish inside if we’re not going to hit.”
Huggins, who usually emphasizes putting up extra shots in the gym, said shooting in the gym during practice and shooting in the WVU Coliseum during a game are very different things.
“It’s one thing to go out and stand there with nobody else in the gym and shoot shots and make them then there is when there’s 14,000 people in there counting on you to make them.”
The Mountaineers have just two regular-season games left to try and right the ship before the Big 12 Tournament and NCAA Tournament. The team will travel to Iowa State Tuesday and host Baylor in the regular-season finale Saturday.