MILWAUKEE - In Bob Huggins' way of thinking, nothing good that West Virginia accomplished Saturday at the Bradley Center will ever overshadow the bottom line.
"I don't like being second in anything,'' he said Saturday after the Mountaineers finished just that in a game against Marquette at the Bradley Center. "Yeah, I have some problems with what we did.''
So he proceeded to list the areas of concern following the Mountaineers' 79-74 loss. Rebounding was at the top of his list. West Virginia gave up 10 more rebounds than it got, despite playing a team that isn't very big by Big East standards.
But really, that's about all that Huggins could come up with to actively voice his displeasure. Even in his criticism of his own team's ability to rebound the basketball, he almost unconsciously made excuses for those he was criticizing.
"We're not very athletic, to be honest with you,'' Huggins said. "We're not very athletic and then we have [guards] Casey [Mitchell], Joe [Mazzulla] and Truck [Bryant]. Those guys are 6-foot at best, and then Casey [is 6-3]. Those guys are going to have to start helping us rebound.''
In other words, the worst thing West Virginia did on Saturday - at least in the grand scheme of things and over the long haul - was fail to rebound. And with three guards on the floor for much of the game and John Flowers in foul trouble, that was really no surprise.
You almost got the feeling that unlike Huggins' reaction to many of West Virginia's losses, this time he came out of it OK, at least by his lofty standards. No, it wasn't a good game because the bottom line was a loss. But it wasn't a disaster, either.
In fact, this team might have taken a big step forward.
"We learned a lot,'' said forward Kevin Jones. "Even though we lost, we came out with a lot of energy, especially after we got down [9-0 at the start]. It took a lot of effort to get back into the game. I liked a lot of what I saw. It took heart to get back into the game.
"We just didn't execute at the end and we didn't make the plays that we needed to to win. And that's what it comes down to sometimes.''
An optimistic viewpoint from one guy who is just trying to keep this whole thing from spiraling out of control after an 0-2 start in the Big East? Well, perhaps.
But keep in mind two things. One, Jones was speaking about 10 minutes after the loss. Usually after a defeat, Huggins can be heard screaming in the locker room for as much as three times that long. After the loss at home to St. John's Wednesday night, for instance, it was 25 minutes before he let his players go.
And two, Huggins' players often times take on the personality of their coach after those post-game "lectures.'' And so if Jones was embracing the idea that perhaps this loss was a step forward, it's probably because he got that impression in the locker room.
In fact, he admitted as much.