We all know that Bob Huggins isn’t the kind of man that lets his emotions come forth. But following a highly disappointing 56-49 loss to the Texas Longhorns on Wednesday night, Huggins couldn’t hold back the frustration while keying fans in on the mental state of his basketball team.
“What I talked to them about (in the locker room) was, I think your attitude has such an unbelievable affect on life,” said Huggins. “People with bad attitudes generally aren’t very successful; people with bad attitudes end up serving time, right? People who are unenthusiastic generally don’t advance in their chosen profession, if they have one. I think life is about attitude.”
The Mountaineers’ performance on Tuesday was the worst of the 2015-16 season thus far by a landslide. WVU made just 19-61 shots from the field (31.1%), 3-21 from three-point range (14.3%) and hit just 8-23 free throw opportunities (34.8%), leading Huggins to question if his players are mentally prepared for what’s to come in the remaining Big 12 schedule.
“Doing this as long as I’ve done this, I’ve always thought that when you miss easy shots and when you can’t make a free throw, you’re not mentally into what you’re doing,” said Huggins. “I stopped practice yesterday because it wasn’t gonna help any. We weren’t doing anything other than creating more bad habits.”
Aside from rebounding the ball, WVU struggled from almost every other angle. Press Virginia committed 11 turnovers as opposed to Texas’ eight, and accumulated just three steals. Those numbers are alarmingly painful, as the Mountaineers lead the nation with an average of 20 forced turnovers per game and 11 steals per game.
However, the blatantly poor shooting performance was just something Bob Huggins couldn’t quite understand.
“You can’t start the game one-for-nine from the free throw line,” he said. “We shot three or four wide open shots in the first half that didn’t hit the rim. They were wide left. That’s hard. I could go out there, and I’m an old man, I’m 62 years old and I swear to ya I could go out there and shoot 1,000 shots and I’m not gonna miss one two-feet left… We just mentally were not in it. I don’t know why. It’s been creeping in.”
As his post-game press conference continued, Huggins continuously reiterated the fact that the lack of mental focus was the only thing he could think of as to why the Mountaineers struggled so greatly, especially coming off of a win over the No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks and a close loss to No. 2 Oklahoma.
“This has been a really good group in terms of commitment and working hard and being enthusiastic,” said Huggins. “Why would you get up and run at six-o-clock in the morning all summer long, voluntarily, and then not take advantage of that conditioning and work that you put in? Why would you do that?”
“I mean, were we mentally not into it? Did we think we were just gonna show up and win? As much as you tell them that’s not gonna happen, particularly in this league; they just watched Oklahoma State last night pound Kansas. That shouldn’t have registered? I think that it would but obviously it didn’t… I think it’s 100 percent mental.”
This game marked West Virginia’s lowest-scoring effort (49 points) of the season with their loss to then-No. 10 Virginia (54 points) coming in second.
The West Virginia guards had an uncharacteristically poor night as Daxter Miles (2-8), Jaysean Paige (2-12), Jevon Carter (1-9) and Tarik Phillip (1-5) scored just 17 points between the four of them.
Devin Williams led the scoring column with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Though he obtained another double-double, Williams made just 4-13 shots from the field. Jonathan Holton also achieved a double-double scoring 10 points and pulling down 14 rebounds.
The No. 6 Mountaineers play next on January 23 at Texas Tech.