COLUMBIA, Mo. - West Virginia found out Thursday night what happens when its perimeter-oriented basketball team can't make shots from the perimeter.
It falls down quickly and can't get up.
Oh, sure, that wasn't WVU's only issue. Far from it. Bob Huggins fairly railed about his team's lack of just about everything and his players didn't disagree.
Still, after losing an 80-71 game to Missouri in which the Mountaineers trailed 9-0, 16-4 and by 25 points with less than nine minutes to play, it's hard not to point to shooting as a major issue.
Especially after WVU shot 27 percent from the field in the first half and made just one of its 11 3-pointers. It set the tone for the night, and while a strong final few minutes got the percentages up a little bit for the game (41.5 on field goals and 21.1 on 3s), the damage had been done.
"Yeah, we had trouble making shots and that definitely didn't help,'' said point guard Juwan Staten. "But the thing is if we'd done anything else the way we're supposed to, bad shooting just would have meant it was a low-scoring first half. We could have made it hard for them to shoot, too.''
Indeed, the theme among the Mountaineers and Huggins - especially Huggins - after the loss at Mizzou Arena in the Big 12/SEC Challenge was West Virginia's absence of discipline and desire and just about everything else that got it six wins in eight games before Thursday.
"Everybody misses shots,'' Staten said. "But that's no excuse for not being ready to play. And we weren't ready to play.''
That might be the understatement of the season to date. In a game to which the Mountaineers had pointed as a measuring stick for their progress, they didn't even make a field goal until more than seven minutes had elapsed. Missouri, using its length on the perimeter to bother WVU's shooters, had an 11-1 lead before West Virginia scored its first field goal.
Missouri's length and talent - the Tigers are now 8-0 and extended the nation's longest home-court win streak to 23 games - indeed were issues, but Huggins certainly didn't want to dwell on that.
"We're going to play about 20 more teams like that,'' he said. "So we'd better get used to it.''
Perhaps what bothered Huggins most throughout the game - aside from what he saw as his entire team's lack of discipline - was the play of sophomore guard Eron Harris. The Big 12's leading scorer averaged 20.3 points through the first eight games, but with nine minutes to play had two points and had taken just three shots. He also spent much of the game beside Huggins, playing just 11 of the first 31 minutes before finishing the game on the floor.
When asked if he wanted Harris taking more than the six shots he attempted (for eight points), Huggins responded dryly.
"It's hard to shoot from where he was most of the game,'' Huggins said.
The Mountaineers managed to make a late run, but by then it was too little and far too late. They closed what was as much as a 25-point deficit to just 75-67 with just over a minute to play and then to 76-69 with 31 seconds left, but got no closer.
West Virginia was also outrebounded 40-32.
Staten led WVU with 16 points, but uncharacteristically had five turnovers to go with his five assists. Terry Henderson had 14 points, Gary Browne 14 and Devin Williams 10.
Jordan Clarkson scored 25 to lead Missouri, which shot 52.9 percent.
West Virginia didn't make a field goal in the game's first seven minutes, but did make a bit of a run before halftime. The Mountaineers first got to within 25-16 and then 27-20. But they still couldn't get a shot to fall. WVU missed two open 3s and a layup during that stretch and eventually Missouri began pulling away again.
The competition certainly doesn't get any easier for West Virginia now, although the venue changes. WVU next plays Tuesday at home against No. 19 Gonzaga.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.
Missouri 80, West Virginia 71
WEST VIRGINIA (6-3)
M FG FT R A P
Williams 25 4-8 2-5 6 0 10
Adrian 18 2-4 0-0 4 0 4