MORGANTOWN - West Virginia had every opportunity in the world Sunday afternoon not only to beat Purdue, but do so handily.
That the Mountaineers didn't can be traced to a lot of different things. They gave up far too many layups to a team that predicates its offense on doing just that. They played decent initial defense, but then gave up 14 offensive rebounds and 13 second-chance points. They even had decent crowd support, drawing the first five-figure crowd of the season (10,019) at the Coliseum.
But more than anything, West Virginia's 73-70 loss to the Boilermakers can be traced to one ridiculously simple element. The Mountaineers didn't make shots. Easy ones.
"We're not going to make them all, but we've got to make some of them,'' Bob Huggins said afterward. "If we're going to let them take that many 3s, we've got to make some of them.''
Indeed, in losing what was their final chance to get a non-conference win over any team that might help their postseason resume, the Mountaineers just couldn't make shots. They didn't make them during the routine course of the game or at the end when it mattered most.
After missing 15 of 18 3-pointers and even more layups than one might ever imagine, West Virginia now goes into a holiday break still struggling for any kind of momentum. The team was excused to go home following the game and will reassemble the day after Christmas to prepare for next Sunday's game against William & Mary in Charleston and then the beginning of Big 12 play the following weekend.
They go into that break knowing the opportunity they missed.
"We just have to continue to work,'' said freshman forward Devin Williams. "It's all we can do.''
In truth, West Virginia's scoring woes Sunday weren't team-wide. Williams and guards Juwan Staten and Eron Harris, in fact, were nearly as productive as one could have expected. Harris suffered from the same 3-point shooting malady as everyone else (he was just 2 for 7 from long range), but he still managed a game-high 24 points. Staten had 14 points and four assists, and Williams not only had his fourth double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds, he made his free throws (8 of 9).
Together, those three were 20 for 40 from the floor and scored 58 points.