CORAL GABLES, Fla. - After West Virginia's 79-76 loss Saturday to Miami, Fla., a team picked in the Atlantic Coast Conference's preseason poll to finish eighth among 12 teams, there was disappointment throughout the Mountaineer locker room in Coral Gables, Fla.
It was understandable. WVU, a Final Four team a season ago, started two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore, while UM started two juniors and three sophomores.
The disappointment was also understandable because West Virginia (5-2) failed to hold a 13-point second-half lead and now has lost two of three resume-building non-conference games. The Mountaineers defeated Vanderbilt, but has lost to Minnesota and Miami. WVU will now play host to Robert Morris on Wednesday, travel to Duquesne the following Monday then play host to Cleveland State before Big East play begins.
WVU forward Kevin Jones said the struggles against the tougher early season opponents are out of character.
"It's very unlike us," said the junior. "We usually try to step on the [opposing team's] throats when we have them down - especially at their home. Once they start on a comeback, the fans start getting into it. You get them believing they can win the game. We gave [Miami] too much confidence."
And there was blame spread all around.
"I could point to three things specifically [in the loss to UM]," said Mountaineer point guard Truck Bryant. "At the end of the day, though, it's a team effort ... I can point out when John [Flowers] turned the ball over twice. I can point to when I got beat left going to the basket for and-ones twice. Then K.J., when he overran the ball. Those three things I can point out. But at the end of the day, we're a team.
"I felt like we should have been there for each other more."
Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins, whose all-time record is now 675-243, gave credit to Miami after Saturday's loss. But then pointed to his players. And himself.
"[UM] played well,'' said the West Virginia coach. "I don't want to take anything away from [Miami]. We got a lead. But I told our guys in practice the other day, 'We've run the same kinds of things for 30 years. We've done pretty good. So it's not what we're doing. It's got to be the guys doing it.'"
He paused, then pointed inward.
"I must not be coaching them good enough," Huggins said. "When you tell them not to overrun the ball and they do it three times two feet from the basket ... they're not listening very good. That's my job, to make them listen. At the end of the day it's my fault."
Flowers was succinct.