2013/03/11 3:16 pm
2013/01/16 6:40 pm
I've had a hard time getting motivated to write about the 2012-2013 Mountaineer Basketball Team. I admit it.
It is a dreary time in the land of the Mountaineers.
The football team suffered one of the most spectacular collapses in recent memory after starting out the season like gangbusters and having Mountaineer fans dreaming of BCS Championships and surefire Heisman Trophies. The Texas game that left WVU fans euphoric in the possibility of greatness feels more like 40 years ago than 4 months ago.
Then the basketball season kicked off with the Mountaineers getting their doors blown off by Gonzaga and it hasn't gotten much better since then.
The team stands 8-7 going into tonight's game at Iowa State, a team that nearly beat #4 Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse a week ago. At various points in the season, Coach Bob Huggins has benched Juwan Staten (starting point guard), Aaric Murray (starting PF/C), and Deniz Kilicli (starting PF/C), and had some of the most depressing news conferences I can remember. (I half expect to see TV crews cutting to a depressed Huggins on the sidelines during games listening to Sarah McLaughlin while eating frosting out of the can.)
Before the season, many (myself included), saw no reason to believe that this team couldn't return to the NCAA Tournament the same way every Bob Huggins WVU team has. Sure, we lost Big East Player of the Year Kevin Jones and 4-year starting point guard
So what happened?
Glad you asked.
Yes, the shooting sucks. But it's always sucked. The difference is that WVU isn't rebounding like they used to.
To say that this team can't shoot is like saying that Ralph Friedgen can't run a marathon. (For the record, the shooting percentage is 39.7%, good for 308th in the nation. Out of 388.)
That much is obvious.
Opposing defenses run zone after zone at the Mountaineers (unless their coach is a complete mongoloid) to take advantage of the fact that WVU shoots 28.3% from the 3-point line, good for 328th in the country.
We have issues shooting.
Announcers from the previous few games have breathlessly noted that opposing teams need to keep WVU off the foul line because they get such a high percentage of points from their free throws as if that's a statistic to be proud of. (The Mountaineers get 24.2% of their points from FT's, 15th highest in the nation.) WVU is 93rd in FT attempts, shooting 70.2% when they're there, good for 131st. The reason such a large percentage of WVU's points come from the free throw line is that the rest of their scoring is so horrific.
Now, to be fair, Bob Huggins Mountaineer teams have never been good shooters. Even in the Final 4 year from 2009-2010, I wrote this article which included mention that the Mountaineers were only shooting 44% towards the end of the season (good for 132nd in the country).
The difference between the recently successful teams and this year's team is that the Mountaineers aren't getting the offensive rebounds that those teams were getting. (This is where Kevin Jones' absence is really felt. Jones was one of the best offensive rebounders in the nation all four years he was at WVU.)
This year's team is getting offensive rebounds on 38.4% of their opportunities, good for 26th nationally. Not bad, right?
Here's what it was the last 4 years:
2011-12- 40.9% (6th)
2010-12- 40.2% (6th)
2009-10- 42.0% (2nd)
2008-09- 41.0% (4th)
So to sum up, the shooting isn't really any worse than it has been, it's just that the Mountaineers aren't grabbing the offensive rebounds at the rate they were previously, and the team has suffered as a result.
And by the way, the defense isn't much better.
But what may not be obvious is that this Mountaineer basketball team is just as weak DEFENSIVELY as they are offensively.
WVU ranks 202nd in the nation in opposing team's field goal percentage this season allowing opponents to shoot 42.9%. (It was 41.7% last year, and 41.2% the year before that.)
They don't get steals (7.3/game, 137th nationally) or blocks (3.8/game, 142nd), and as a result, they rarely (if ever) get fast break points.
Action shot of every Mountaineer fan for most of this season.
So what hope (if any) is there for Mountaineer fans?
For starters, despite losing to Kansas State over the weekend, the Mountaineers put up a strong effort in a game they could've easily won over a team ranked in the top 20.
They shot an amazing (for them) 51.1% from the field and showed a fire, spirit, and effort not seen from this particular group of guys so far this year.
The improved play and effort started in the second half of the Texas game a week prior, where the Mountaineers erased a 13-point second half deficit to defeat the Longhorns in overtime.
While it would take a small miracle to hope that WVU could somehow turn this season around to make the NCAA Tournament again given the fact that they are presently 79th in statsheet.com's RPI, the effort shown by the Mountaineers over the course of the past game and a half suggests that this may not be the lost season many of us feared it would be after a home loss to Oklahoma. (The second time the Mountaineers had lost to a very mediocre Oklahoma team this season.)
The chance for the Mountaineers' redemption starts tonight.
2012/12/19 3:37 pm
2012/11/20 3:06 pm
On a night when Tavon Austin will be remembered for doing what no Mountaineer has ever done, the final score ultimately showed what WVU has now done five times in a row.
Wasting Austin’s school- and Big 12-record performance, WVU lost its fifth straight game on a last-second touchdown to Oklahoma, 50-49 Saturday night in Morgantown.
WVU hasn’t lost five straight since Don Nehlen’s 1986 crew went 4-7. It was the first time the Mountaineers had dropped three home games in a season since 2001.
WVU (5-5, 2-5 Big 12) continued its fall from grace, matching the season-opening 5-game winning streak (and Top 5 ranking that came with it), with an 5-game skid of futility.
The loss leaves WVU with just two chances to become bowl eligible this season, beginning Friday afternoon at Iowa State. The ‘Eers finish the season at home against Kansas on Dec. 1.
The Oklahoma game was the date everyone penciled in before the season began, and despite the steep decline this Gold and Blue campaign has taken, it proved to be every bit as exciting as fans thought it would be during the preseason.
Austin showed time and again his elusiveness, speed and agility and nearly without equal on the gridiron; Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey were a superb supporting cast; and WVU rallied from a 31-17 halftime deficit to take the lead two different times in the fourth quarter.
In fact, WVU held that final lead until just 27 seconds remained, and the Sooners were down to their final play. But as has been the case all season, the beleaguered WVU defense couldn’t muster a key stop when it absolutely, positively needed most.
OU’s Landry Jones, who broke his own career record with 554 yards passing and 6 TDs, threw a perfect slant to Kenny Stills on 4th down from the WVU 5, putting the Sooners ahead for good.
"They ended up making one more play than we did," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said in this SI.com article.
Noted WVU enthusiast Cookie Monster reflecting the views of all Mountaineer fans.
The second-year coach was quoted in this WV Gazette article as saying, "The kids played hard. How many losses like this do we have to go through?
“I don't know. We've got two games left. Hopefully we can get back out there and get to work and try to come up with a couple of wins. It's a tough loss, but we have to regroup.''
Despite breaking instead of bending in key situations, WVU’s defense didn’t hold a monopoly on the miscues.
Tyler Bitancurt shanked an extra-point attempt wide after WVU had cut its deficit to just 8 points late in the 3rd quarter. Smith, despite playing much closer to the stature of his first 5 games, gave up two interceptions which would have led to as many field goals had OU not missed a 37-yarder wide.
The offense wasted a rare defensive stop when it failed to convert a crucial 4th down deep on the Oklahoma territory near the end of the 3rd quarter.
With little to no faith in the kicking game, head coach Dana Holgorsen opted to go for it on 4th-and-1 at the OU 14, but gave the ball to Andrew Buie instead of Austin, and OU’s defense stopped him short.
Even after WVU got an interception and scored to make the count 38-36 in the 4th, Bailey dropped a 2-point conversion pass that would have tied it up. Smith also failed on a 2-point conversion attempt late in the 4th quarter.
The last-minute rally was the first time in 16 tries that Oklahoma overcame a 4th quarter deficit to win.
WVU and OU combined for 1,440 yards. The 778 yards of WVU total offense was the most ever surrendered by the Sooners.
That total was keyed by Austin’s stunning performance.
In his first game starting in the backfield since high school, Austin had 344 yards, breaking KayJay Harris’ 2004 record of 334 yards.
"We hadn't been able to run the ball, so we had to do something," Holgorsen said in this Daily Mail article. "Obviously, he goes for 344 yards, it probably should have been done four years ago."
Including receiving and returns yardage, Austin finished with 578 all-purpose yards (a Big 12 record), a total just 6 yards shy of the NCAA record of 578.
That total smashed WVU’s previous record of 356, set by Garrett Ford Sr. against Pitt in 1965.
Austin also became the first player in WVU history score by rush, reception, punt return and kickoff return in the same season.
West Virginia’s 778 yards of total offense was nearly the most ever posted by a losing team, falling just 13 yards away from the NCAA record of 791 by Nevada in a 2001 loss against San Jose State.
The Sooner defense had only surrendered 3 passing touchdowns all season, but Smith managed 4 scores to go with 20 of 35 passing for 320 yards. The senior was the first QB this season to pass for more than 300 yards on the OU defense.
Bailey had 13 catches for 205 yards and four touchdowns, his second straight 200-yard receiving game.
But OU managed to win with 662 yards of offense of its own. Jones may well be the fifth straight WVU opponent to win Big 12 offensive player of the week honors if he beats out Austin on Monday.
The Mountaineers have allowed 50 points in four games this season, while giving up 49 and 45 in two others.
"The kids have practiced so well the last three weeks and it showed," defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said in the previously cited Gazette article. "I know we gave up 50, but in spurts we played well.''
In spurts, Custer's army fought well.
DeForest’s crew certainly had some hard hits, including a WWE-style power slam of Stills to set up the fateful 4th down at the game’s end. WVU forced two turnovers, both of which led to touchdowns.
But each time WVU cut away at its nearly game-long deficits, the defense undercut the effort by allowing big plays time and again.
Oklahoma looked in control early on, converting three 3rd down tries to key 13-play, 75-yard drive for a 7-0 lead.
Smith’s first interception came soon after, and OU converted that into a 32-yards field goal and a 10-0 lead.
West Virginia finally responded with Austin leading the way, rushing three straight times at one point for 42 yards. The journey stalled at the OU 2, and Holgorsen opted for a 19-yard field goal instead of trying to convert a 4th-and-1.
West Virginia got another opportunity for some offensive drama after forcing a fumble. Facing a 4th-and-goal at the 1, this time Holgs went for it, and Buie converted with a clutch 1-yard score.
As has been the case often this season, WVU’s opponent followed immediately with a counter-punch. This one came two plays later when Jalen Saunders converted a Jones pass and at least three missed tackles into a 76-yard score.
The Sooners piled on after WVU failed to give Austin a touch and quickly went 3-and-out as a result.
OU went 76 yards in 8 plays, needing just over 3 minutes to make it 24-10 on a Jones 4-yard TD strike to Stills.
WVU narrowed the gap on with a 33-yard strike to Bailey, who had beaten two defenders, to make it 24-17. The score was set up by a 41-yard completion to Austin on the possession’s first play.
It didn’t last, though, as OU got a 48-yard score four plays later as Damien Williams ran nearly untouched to pay dirt.
Austin began his incredible second half with a 74-yard rush to the end zone, making it 31-24, but Oklahoma needed just 5 plays to go 80 yards for its own score.
A short pass that went for 51 yards keyed the journey, and an 11-yard TD pass to Stills made it 38-24.
The back-and-forth continued as WVU responded with its best drive in the last five games, going 92 yards on 17 plays. Austin capped it with a 4-yard score, but Bitancurt’s missed PAT left the score at 38-30.
As recapped earlier, Austin broke a 56-yard run on the ensuing touch, but WVU turned the ball over on downs at the opposing 14.
Broderick Jones intercepted an ill-advised Jones pass at the WVU 3 to end a Sooner threat, setting up another WVU score.
This time it was Smith and Bailey, who connected three times for 72 yards, including a 4-yard score. The 2-point try failed, though, leaving WVU behind, 38-36.
Momentum remained with the home team, as the defense tightened and forced OU to punt. Austin followed with a 54-yard breakout, and soon after, Smith found Bailey for an 8-yard score to give the Mountaineers an improbable 43-38 lead.
But the defense returned to its old ways, allowing Jones to shred it for passes of 16, 29, and 23 before giving up a 7-yard TD to Stills on a 3rd-and-6 attempt. The PAT made it 44-43 with 4:10 to play.
Austin struck again on the next play for 47 yards, and Smith found Bailey for a 40-yard score, sending the Gold and Blue crowd into a frenzy as WVU went up 49-44. Once again, though, the 2-point try was no good, as Smith was stopped short on a broken play.
Even though WVU lost, this will be remembered as the day that Tavon went OFF.
Oklahoma took the punch and came right back unfazed, moving downfield with a typical big play -- this one a 36-yard completion to the WVU 12.
From there, the WVU defense forced the 4th-and-3 that led to the winning score. The defensive stand may have an ill-advised, though, as WVU could have led OU score and had more time on the clock to rally.
But the 21 seconds that were left after the kickoff wasn’t enough, and Smith’s hail mary try was batted down outside of the end zone.
The teams combined for 31 points in the fourth quarter, including four touchdowns over the final seven minutes.
WVU travels to Iowa State on Friday at 3:30 p.m. on ABC.
2012/11/05 2:58 pm
The Gold and Blue free-fall continues.
Despite a better performance from its much-maligned defense, West Virginia gave up two big plays at the worst time to lose its third straight game to TCU Saturday, falling 39-38 in double-overtime.
The signs of improvement were there, but in the end, the result was the same -- WVU dropped its third straight Big 12 Conference game with a combination of inept play on all three sides of the ball.
After allowing nearly 53 points per game this season, WVU’s defense had apparently righted a lot of wrongs during the previous bye week. The unit looked surprisingly adequate for most of the game, forcing three turnovers, nine punts and six 3-and-outs, but it couldn’t avoid the big play when a stop was needed most.
West Virginia (5-3, 2-3 Big 12) blew a 10-point second-half lead and continually refused to let a mistake-prone TCU give them the game, dropping three straight for the first time since 2004. WVU had not allowed two straight losses at Mountaineer Field since 2003.
Want to watch the highlights? Are you the type of person that enjoys getting your teeth drilled at the dentist?
In an often ugly (but exciting) contest, West Virginia out-gaffed its opponent by missing four field goals (the third of which was a potential overtime game-winner that was blocked), while also giving up a 94-yard touchdown tie the game in the final 3 minutes of regulation.
"TCU made more plays than we did,'' West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said in this article from the WV Gazette. "We had plenty of opportunities to win the game and we failed to do so on all three sides of the ball, coaches and players included.''
Leading 24-14 in the third quarter, Tyler Bitancurt (he of the above-mentioned four misses), couldn’t corral a low snap on a punt try, and TCU collected the loose-pigskin for a 15-yard TD to make it 24-21.
WVU responded with a drive deep into Horned Frog territory, but Bitancurt’s third off-line kick negated a chance at some insurance points.
TCU looked as if it would make the Mountaineers pay, driving to the WVU 8, but Isaiah Bruce picked off a Trevone Boykin pass at the goal line to give his team another reprieve.
It wouldn’t matter, as WVU’s offense then decided to no-show, moving backward a yard on three plays to force a punt.
TCU took over at its own 48 and quickly mounted an efficient journey to tie the game at 24-24 on a 26-yard field goal.
After some laughable attempts at offense, the teams traded punts -- and that’s when fortune against shined on the Mountaineers. Tavon Austin took a punt at his own 24 and showed his nearly untouchable speed, making several defenders miss while out-running the others for a 76-yard TD.
The PAT made it 31-24 with just 3 minutes, 19 seconds left in the game. Surely even this Gold and Blue defense could hold it together for that long, right?
After a 9-yard sack on first down, Boykin scrambled away from some WVU pressure to find Josh Boyce in the secondary without a white jersey within 15 yards of him. Seems Boyce had been knocked out of bounds at the play’s outset by inexperienced new starter Ishmael Banks, who then let Banks go when it looked like the TCU signal-caller might run for it.
Instead, Boykin let the football fly, and the wide-open Banks took the pass to the house, tying the game at 31-31 with a 94-yard score.
"It was just a busted coverage,'' said defensive coordinator Joe DeForest in this article from the WV Gazette. "We'd done the things we needed to do. We played well. But we didn't finish the game.''
To their credit, Smith and the offense produced another scoring chance in response, despite having only 1:28 to do so. The senior led the team to the opposing 38 in 7 plays, though the play-calls were geared more for a big TD strike than to set up the team‘s shaky kicker for an easier field goal.
Smith missed a big chance when he overthrew J.D. Woods, who had beaten two defenders, on what would have been a walk-off TD pass, leaving Bitancurt to come nowhere close to making a 55-yard field goal try to end regulation.
The Horned Frogs couldn’t break into the end zone on the first drive of overtime, and the hometown crowd smelled blood in the water when the TCU kicker missed wide with his 37-yard field goal.
WVU could only move 6 yards in 3 plays, though, and Bitancurt’s potential game-clinching kick was blocked to bring on a second OT period.
That stanza produced an even better opportunity for the Mountaineers, who scored on the first play when Smith found Stedman Bailey for a 25-yard TD. The PAT made it 38-31 and put all the pressure on TCU to respond.
Yup. This picture pretty much sums it up.
Picture via Charleston Daily Mail here.
And respond they did.
The Horned Frogs faked a reverse, and as we all know, WVU’s defense is susceptible to any play that involves even the tiniest bit of trickery. As could be expected, Boykin found another receiver with no Mountaineers anywhere in sight for a 25-yard score.
TCU showed a lot of testicular fortitude and decided to go for the win instead of a 3rd overtime. Boykin closed the contest by again finding Boyce on a low-pass for the two-point conversion. A review confirmed the play and sealed WVU’s fate.
"I'm one of those people who believes when you play someone on the road you have to go take ball games,'' TCU coach Gary Patterson said in the previously-cited article. "If you just play around and see what happens, you get things like the [Austin] punt return.''
TCU started the game’s scoring with a lengthy drive, going 78 yards in 13 plays. The nearly 7-minute journey was keyed by two lengthy 3rd-down conversions, and was capped with Matthew Tucker’s 2-yard TD run.
After some offensive misfired, WVU finally responded with a 67-yard drive, capped when J.D. Woods stole a sure interception from a TCU defender in the end zone for a 22-yard score.
The Horned Frogs would get the lead right back, though.
Smith was picked off on the first play following a punt, missing his receiver by more than 10 yards, and Boykin was much more accurate on his next try, connecting with Boyce for a 31-yard score on the very next play.
Boyce had beaten two WVU defenders on the play to reach pay dirt and earn a 14-7 lead.
Austin helped to knot the game 14-all with a beauty of a play, taking a short touch-pass from Smith from sideline to sideline for a highlight-reel 43-yard touchdown. The senior finished with 11 catches for 101 yards.
Smith completed 32 of 54 passes for 260 yards and three scores, but still hasn‘t come close to the form and accuracy he showed in the season‘s first 5 games.
Shawne Alston returned from injury but made little difference, carrying 4 times for 11 yards. He did score on a 1-yard run (on 4th-and-goal no less), which gave WVU a 21-14 halftime lead. That score was set up by a TCU muffed punt which the Mountaineers recovered at the 9-yard line.
TCU outgained the Mountaineers 405-338, but WVU managed just 126 yards in the second half.
"What we've done the last three games offensively is totally unacceptable," Holgorsen said in this article from the WV Gazette.
"It's quiet [in the Mountaineer locker room]," said linebacker Isaiah Bruce in this article. "There's a lot of disappointment. We really came into this game expecting to win. It hurts."