Time Is Up

I spent much of the first 10 minutes of the second half of Sunday's game writing a column about how West Virginia had finally put a solid performance together.

I probably should've been watching more of the second half, because I would've watched another collapse from the Mountaineers.

Sure, West Virginia found a way to escape Eastern Kentucky in the Coliseum. The Mountaineers wound up winning 74-67 but had to come from behind late in the game to do it.

It should sound like a broken record, because it's been that way for three straight games against inferior opponents.

Now's the time to worry, because WVU doesn't have another warm-up game on its schedule. There aren't anymore Oakland's or Radford's or Eastern Kentucky's waiting in the wings.

Nope, just the entire Big 12 Conference, which is significantly better for the most part, is waiting to play the Mountaineers.

In the first half against the Colonels, the Mountaineers looked like a team worthy of an NCAA tournament bid.

Then WVU went back to doing what it has done much of the year and failed to put its opponent away.

"I really thought we got better. I thought it kind of looked like my team in the first half. As then as soon as I was dumb enough to start thinking that, we let them shoot 63 percent [in the second half]," said WVU head coach Bob Huggins. "It's incredibly frustrating to have to say the same thing day after day after day after day. They keep doing the same things."

West Virginia is a drastically different team from what it was a month or so ago –and it is still learning how to change. I can remember sitting in front of my TV watching the Mountaineers take on Marshall and relying so heavily on Deniz Kilicli to make plays in the post.

Now, Kilicli is merely a piece to the puzzle – and not the one that completes it. That piece might just be Aaric Murray like we all thought more than a year ago when he decided to transfer from LaSalle.

Murray didn't score many points on Sunday vs. the Colonels, but he didn't necessarily need to either. He pulled down eight rebounds in the first half and let the guards do most of the scoring. He finished with eight points and 12 rebounds.

He knows his points will come, and so does Huggins and his teammates.

The Mountaineers had to put something together before Big 12 play. It had to get more consistent on the defensive side of the ball, find some consistent shooters and learn to play like a team.

It's not all there yet, but there are signs that it's getting there.

I just don't know if there's enough time to keep failing to put it all together.

"I feel like it's in us, because at times we'll guard the ball really, really well. At times we shoot the ball well. At times we rebound the ball well. We have intensity, but throughout the game we have mental breakdowns, and that's when teams get back in the game," Staten said. "That's what we have to get better at."

If you counted out West Virginia following its loss to Duquesne earlier this year, I'm not surprised. I did, too, for the most part.

We should never, however, doubt a team coached by Huggins. Sure, this isn't going to be an easy team to watch over the next three months by any means, but it's not going to quit or lose more Big 12 games than it wins.

It will probably be a fight to get to the NCAA tournament if only because of the iffy start.

But I wouldn't count this team out, not even after much of what we all saw in the second half on Sunday.

Still, the Big 12 is waiting, and I can't see West Virginia easily traversing that slate.

"We're going to have to be ready," Staten said. "We just have to start putting it all together."

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