PITTSBURGH - Call it the dirty little secret that exploded into the open a week ago when West Virginia lost yet another game it had a chance to win and lost it late.
Where was Kevin Jones?
Normally - in fact, requisitely - front and center in all things West Virginia basketball this season, Jones all but disappeared when it mattered most in the Mountaineers' overtime loss to Connecticut in the Big East tournament.
With 8:35 to play in regulation, Jones made his final field goal of the day and the Mountaineers led 53-45. At the 6:17 mark he made two free throws and it was 57-50. He had 25 points and eight rebounds and WVU was in control.
But then in the final 11 minutes - six in regulation and five in overtime - Jones had two rebounds and three shots. He barely touched the ball in the final four minutes of regulation and after that layup with just over 81/2 minutes to play in regulation he didn't take another shot until 92 seconds remained in overtime. And one of those three shots he took in the final 1:32 was a 3-pointer with four seconds to play that wouldn't have mattered anyway, what with WVU trailing by four.
It's not the first time Jones' disappearance was critical. This is a team that lost eight games by a total of 29 points, a fact that Bob Huggins has pointed out more than once in the past few days.
You know what, though? He's also been quick to point out that Jones isn't exactly a shrinking violet when the pressure is on. It's just not his fault, which Huggins alluded to when asked after that UConn loss and referred to a bunch of freshmen teammates who "don't know what the hell they're doing.''
He's expounded on that thought lately, noting that Jones is not one to force things. The fact is, when games are tight at the end, opposing defenses gang up on the 6-foot-8, 260-pounder who led the Big East in scoring and rebounding. And so Jones in those situations does what he always does, which is try to find the guy who isn't being double-teamed and smothered.
But as the Mountaineers prepared to play Gonzaga tonight in the NCAA tournament here at Consol Energy Center, it might be time for Jones to become a little more selfish. If the game is close and West Virginia needs offense, perhaps jones should force himself on the defense. Because trying to be a team player obviously hasn't worked all the time, or even most of the time.
Maybe it's time for Kevin Jones to become more like Keyshawn Johnson: Just give him the damn ball.