Chip Shots – A Step Back

A step back

by Jim Buzzerd

I’ve been trying to present the West Virginia University men’s basketball team as a team on the mend after a rough start in conference play. After Saturday’s 94-60 loss at Texas, I’m not sure what to think. WVU went to Austin having won four of five games, and while I wasn’t expecting a win there, I was optimistic they wouldn’t crumble like blue cheese as they did.

As I type it is several hours until Monday night’s WVU vs Baylor game. I mention that to alert readers there may be no comment on the game later in this space. In any event, I don’t expect a win tonight if the Mountaineer’s play isn’t significantly better than Saturday’s. Before Saturday I was hopeful of one win on the two game trip.

The score says it all, but there is more to unpack. Erik Stevenson had surpassed 30 points in his last three games. On Saturday Stevenson was in foul trouble and made just one three point field goal and finished with just three points 1-7 shooting.

Tre Mitchell has really been struggling. He’s only hit double figures once in his last six games and that was in a loss to TCU. Saturday was a homecoming for Mitchell as he played for the Longhorns last season. He did not perform as if he wanted to beat his ex-teammates, quite the opposite. He finished with one field goal and four points, but he only took three shots.

WVU needs Mitchell to be a scorer and taking three shots a game will not get that done. Part of the problem against Texas was Mitchell’s five turnovers which cost him shot attempts. Speaking of turnovers, WVU committed 20 on Saturday which makes 40 in both games against the Longhorns this season.

I’ll be watching Mitchell closely tonight to see if head coach Bob Huggins will let his bad play continue. Pat Suemnick and Josiah Harris have shown ability to be productive and seem to have earned some court time. That pair combined for 15 points and just one turnover in 18 minutes Saturday.

Huggins offered this in his post-game comments, “We threw the ball all over the place, I didn’t know what to do with Tre. He wasn’t Tre. He wasn’t as confident. He wasn’t as focused maybe.”

West Virginia will do another Saturday-Monday combo as they host Texas Tech this Saturday at noon on ESPNU and will take on Oklahoma on Monday at 7p.m. on ESPN2 in the Coliseum.