by Jim Buzzerd
Finally, a win
The West Virginia University Men’s Basketball Team went to Fort Worth, Texas last Tuesday and were administered a 31 point beating by the TCU Horned Frogs which left the Mountaineers in the Big 12 basement with a 0-5 record in conference play. In the first four conference losses WVU was in a position to win all of them, but critical unforced errors, quite common for this season’s version of the Mountaineers, led to defeats.
A 31-point loss wasn’t what you would want with the next game being against seventh ranked Kansas. Finding an optimistic Mountaineer fan Saturday morning was no small task. The Mountaineers had other ideas about Kansas and pulled a 65-64 win over the visiting Jayhawks to get a much needed win. Down by two, Jermaine Haley drove the lane and hit a layup with 8.5 seconds to give WVU the winning margin. Kansas was unable to get off a good shot as time expired.
Haley is a 6-7, 215 pound point guard who arrived in Morgantown from Odessa College in Texas. He played his freshman season at New Mexico State. He has been getting noticeably more comfortable on the court in recent games and he could be one answer to the team’s issue with poor guard play. An emerging Haley may not be enough to turn the team around, but a few more wins down the stretch seem more likely today than two weeks ago.
If the name sounds familiar, it’s likely because his dad, also named Jermaine, was a defensive tackle with NFL stops in Washington and Miami. While we’re wading in the gene pool, it should be noted that Haley’s grandfather, Otis Haley, once held the national high school high jump record with a jump of 7-1 ¼. It doesn’t appear the younger Haley got his grandfather’s leaping skills.
If West Virginia can get Sagaba Konate back on the court we could see a pretty good team develop. Of course the Konate situation seems shrouded in mystery and head coach Bob Huggins defers to Konate’s brother when asked about a possible return of one the NCAA’s elite shot blockers. Those who have tried to decipher the situation suggest it is Konate’s brother telling him not to play, not doctors. What we now know is Konate has ditched his crutches and has started shooting while wearing a large knee brace.
Who knows if this is a sign of a possible return this season, but it’s the most positive news since he last played on December 8 against Pitt. In case anyone doesn’t remember, Konate scored 16 points, blocked seven shots and had nine rebounds in 27 minutes that day and there was no sign of him being injured. Even with a healthy Konate next month it will be difficult for WVU to post enough wins to make March madness. However, a healthy Konate and improving Derek Culver and Haley would make WVU a team to watch in the Big 12 tournament.
For what it’s worth, the above was written prior to West Virginia’s 85-73 home loss to Baylor Monday night. It was a game where the Mountaineers came out uninspired, trailed by 15 at the half and by 21 in the second half before cutting the Baylor lead to single digits a couple times late in the game. Obviously the win over Kansas provided no bounce for the Mountaineers. It only gets tougher now as WVU travels to Knoxville Saturday to play Tennessee, the new number one team in the country as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.