Chip Shots

by Jim Buzzerd

 

Getting worse

Last week I tried to be optimistic about the West Virginia University Men’s Basketball Team. They had just beaten Oklahoma on Saturday behind a 25-point breakout game by freshman Brandon Knapper, so the thinking was that maybe that win and Knapper’s performance could give WVU some life and allow them to compete with other Big 12 teams down the stretch.  No, I wasn’t thinking West Virginia would be able to turn their season around, or anything like that, any positive sign would be welcome.
What do the Mountaineers do? They go out and lose by 31 points Monday night at Texas Tech in an 81-50 shellacking. But it was even worse than that, because Tech had led by 38 even after they emptied their bench. The Mountaineers managed just nine field goals in the game. No West Virginia team since 1942 has made fewer baskets in a game.
Four of those field goals belonged to freshman Derek Culver who was one Mountaineer who continued to work his tail off during the rout and managed to get 24 attempts from the foul line. He made just 15 of them, without those we’re talking about a blowout of epic proportions. Culver’s effort was good, as were his 23 points, but there was an ugly side the promising first year player was part of. He was one of three WVU players with five turnovers and the team total of 26 is embarrassing, or should be.
I don’t know what the players on this team are thinking, but it looks like many of them have given up, or just don’t know what to do. In a 75-53 home loss to Texas Saturday night the Longhorns just abused a 3-2 zone employed by the Mountaineers; having seven second half dunks. This team has been referred to as unwatchable and that is a fair assessment.  Unfortunately, there are some like me who will continue to watch just to torture ourselves.
If Beetle Bolden and Sagaba Konate were healthy all season and Derek Culver didn’t miss 11 games due to a suspension, I believe the above trio could have formed a solid nucleolus that would have kept the Mountaineers at least on the positive side of .500. But we all know what they say about ifs and buts…
Without those three players logging major minutes we’ve witnessed what I would consider some shoddy recruiting by head coach Bob Huggins and his staff. Culver is the only payer on the court in weeks who has looked the part of a Power Five recruit. No one, including current senior and former four-star recruit Esa Ahmad, has looked to be more than a role player, and inconsistent ones at that.
Huggins dropped a nugget the other night that left me scratching my head. The coach commented that Trey Doomes needs to play more. Uh, coach, then play him. I’ve heard that Huggins allows Larry Harrison to do the substitutions, and that statement may reflect that.
Doomes is a freshman that was redshirting until eight games ago when, for some reason, Huggins decided to play Doomes and void the redshirt. In the eight games Doomes has been available he has played 34 minutes, and looked more athletic than everyone except possibly Culver. Huggins should be committed to playing Doomes a lot since he burned the redshirt.
Update: Hours after this column was finished WVU issued a statement that Ahmad and junior Wesley Harris have been dismissed from the team. No further details were given, but turbulent waters within the program are a given.

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