Nothing More He Can Do

There are many West Virginia players who could have a fragile sense of confidence in the wake of the program's first three-game losing streak in Bob Huggins' tenure as head coach. One of them happens to be the Mountaineers' biggest star.

It must be so great and so difficult to be Kevin Jones right now.

Essentially everyone who knows college basketball well has sung Jones' praises all season, and with great reason. The senior has been as good as any player in the country and arguably more valuable than anyone else.

He has been money in the Mountaineers' proverbial bank of late. Monday night's 72-66 Backyard Brawl loss to Pittsburgh saw Jones record his eighth-straight game with 20 or more points. Not since Wil Robinson pulled off that feat in nine consecutive games early in the 1972 season has that been done by any WVU player.

But all of Jones' greatness hasn't been enough recently. West Virginia (15-8, 5-5) has suffered three losses in its last three games, all in different fashion. It was embarrassed at St. John's, victimized by awful officiating at a critical moment at No. 3 Syracuse, and then out-toughed in the second half against the Panthers.

The constant has been Jones, of course. He has been great when others have been anything but.

But the senior admitted the losses are wearing on him -- causing him to even develop a bit of insomnia. He watches DVDs of the night's games before heading to bed, he admitted. And sometimes, even that isn't enough to get the defeats out of his system.

"Sometimes when we lose, I can't sleep," he said, head down, after Monday's loss.

You could see the desperation to win in every move the senior made in a 21-point, 13-rebound performance against Pitt. When he made a baseline jumper to get his team back within 48-45, he hopped up and down and thumped his chest.

That was fine. However, plays like the 3-pointer he took with just more than six minutes left and the Mountaineers only down by two -- when none of his teammates were under the basket to rebound a potential miss -- only serve to hurt the cause he cares about so deeply.

That was the knock on Jones last season. He simply tried to do too much too often. He tried to be all things instead of just the ones he was good at being. And his game suffered as a result.

Though he must be desperate to do anything else he can conceivably do to turn around West Virginia's fortunes at this point, he must avoid falling into that trap again. Huggins said as much on Monday night.

"I think the biggest mistake he can make is try to do more," he said.

"He's fine. I mean, he took a couple quick 3s he shouldn't have taken. But what am I supposed to say to him with everything he's done? You know he's trying to win. I have no doubt he's trying to win."

No one could doubt that.

But the temptation must be there to try something -- anything -- else, as Jones continues to register monumental statistical contributions and continues to watch his team lose in spite of them.

"It definitely adds frustration," Jones acknowledged. "Whether I put up 20 or 10, I just want the team to win. It doesn't matter about the numbers to me when we're losing. It's not a satisfying feeling after a loss, no matter how good or bad you play."

Fellow senior Truck Bryant acknowledged the same. Bryant said he plans to call a players-only meeting in the coming days to try to right the ship.

Uncertainty seemed to be creeping into the mindset of both seniors. Their words conveyed, for the first time all season, the slightest sense of doubt.

"It's tough, but I think we'll bounce back," Jones said, the lack of definitive language notable. "We have to. We have no choice."

Jones has no choice but to continue to play his style of game. He can only hope against hope that his teammates play better down the stretch.

How frustrating that must be for a senior, doing all he can conceivably do to help his team win, and knowing that by trying to do more, he likely will only serve to hurt his own cause.

How Jones deals with that harsh reality may determine just how the end of this season turns out for the Mountaineers.


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