"We don't have time to grow. We can't be 15-15," said forward Deniz Kilicli. "We have to man up."
Head coach Bob Huggins' squad is having trouble finding what it does well and what it doesn't do well, something that the veteran coach has preached for years at WVU.
It's clear that West Virginia is still trying to find itself at this point in the year. The Mountaineers have played predominately man defense, which is expected under Huggins. However, in the second half, when WVU was struggling to get the pace of play back on its side, it went to the 2-3 zone, something that the Mountaineers haven't used under Huggins. WVU tried some early pressure on the ball against the Golden Flashes, too, and against Oral Roberts ran some 1-3-1 zone.
"We're going to do dumb stuff, because we just don't know. We're going to make some bad plays," Huggins said. "Our effort shouldn't change."
It was as if Huggins was worried about his one-on-one matchups in the man-to-man defense despite only giving up 28 points in the first half.
"There's not a defense in the world that you can play where you can't guard the ball," Huggins said. "We didn't do that."
To me, it wasn't the time to try out different defenses when it looked like the simple stuff was working, and WVU wasn't in any sort of foul trouble.
WVU couldn't find the basket in the second half, though. After coming out on fire on the offensive end in the first few minutes, the Mountaineers cooled down significantly from the field. And, to be honest, it wasn't the freshmen that were the big problem.
Senior point guard Truck Bryant handled the ball for much of the second half, and he had three turnovers in the first nine minutes of the period, which allowed Kent State to eventually take a 10-point lead with 10 minutes left.
"It's discouraging when you mess up, because you think about it. Honestly, I know that I messed up, and I was trying to get the ball back," Bryant said.
With his inconsistent play at the point guard position, the Mountaineers weren't able to score. And, when Kilicli was able to hit six straight points, the Golden Flashes went to a 2-3 zone and caught WVU with no idea what to do.
Freshman forward Aaron Brown, who had seven points in the first half, didn't play much in the second half. In addition, Jones was fairly non-existent on the offensive end after the first few minutes of the second half. The Mountaineers didn't shoot well from the free-throw line, either.
Huggins looked furious, confused, concerned and just about every other adjective to describe worry during the second half.
In the end, the Mountaineers turned the ball over 17 times (which surprisingly is less than in their win over Oral Roberts). They also were out-rebounded in the second half and gave up nearly double the amount of points in the paint in the half compared to the first 20 minutes.
It was the Mountaineers' first non-conference home loss in 36 games and first double-digit non-conference loss at the Coliseum since Dec. 2, 1998 vs. Georgia.
"We just have to learn and turst each other that we'll be there when someone else gets broken down," Bryant said. "Sometimes we have that. Sometimes we don't."
WVU needs to find an identity. If Bryant is going to play the two-guard, there's no reason for him to be running the offense during the middle of the second half. If it has the talent and success in the man-to-man, there's no reason to switch it up.
"We'll fix it. We'll fix it," Huggins said. "I just can't fix everything at once."
The Mountaineers are young – and there's no way around that. It's going to take time to find an identity and play with that purpose.
With a schedule like this, though, there's not much time to waste.
Tuesday morning's game was an example of what could happen at any time to WVU.
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