Slow start has Mountaineers searching for answers
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Three seasons ago, West Virginia University's basketball team was playing in a Final Four.
This season, after Sunday's 77-70 loss to Oklahoma in the Old Spice Classic, it is 1-3 after four.
WVU has been blown out by Gonzaga. It has blown out Marist. It has been narrowly defeated by Davidson and Oklahoma.
And the Mountaineer players are almost at a loss for words.
"It's not really a leadership thing, it's just ... I'm not sure really," said guard Jabarie Hinds. "You see the stuff we've got to do, but ... I'm not sure. I don't know."
Cold shooting is the main reason for WVU's early hole. But there are many issues.
"I think our biggest problem is just playing 40 minutes," said fellow guard Juwan Staten. "I mean, we play in spurts. Sometimes we look real good out there and sometimes we don't look very good at all. We just need to play 40 minutes, the whole game through."
After being down by 12 in the first half, WVU rallied to tie the game at 62 with 6:32 remaining. Oklahoma, though, closed out the game with a 15-8 advantage.
"That's what I mean when I say we don't play 40 minutes," Staten said. "Sometimes we have lapses, whether on defense or offense. When we have our lapses is when teams get runs on us."
"We stop playing," said guard Gary Browne, who tied the game with a pair of free throws. "We stop playing sometimes. We don't get to those 50-50 balls. In the second half, they got all the rebounds. Plays like that can define a game."
After making the free throws, Browne took a charge to give his team a chance to assume control. It didn't happen.
"We made a play and had the game right there," Browne said. "Then we stopped playing. We didn't get the 50-50 play. We didn't hustle."
Hinds missed a shot after a Bob Huggins timeout at 5:43.
"I missed the shot, it came down, they got a layup - and we went cold," Hinds said.
"We're not where we want to be," said reserve Keaton Miles. "We want to win the game. We don't want to be 'almost' anything. We want to make our fans happy and the state of West Virginia happy. We're improving, but we want to get the job done."
"Everybody's down," Hinds said. "But we just have to get back to work. We have a lot of games ahead of us."