More Bad Decisions

For long stretches on Wednesday night, West Virginia played some of its best basketball in a considerable amount of time. But when it mattered most, WVU reverted to the same old timid, mistake-prone team that fans have seen time and time again.

For a spell, this was a performance reminiscent of Bob Huggins' teams of years gone by: plucky, energetic, dominating the glass, making just enough shots when they were available.

Huggins saw it, and despite what was ultimately a 65-62 loss to Baylor, he seemed relatively pleased that, at least for once, his team had played hard. The "pouters" on the team didn't play.

That may have been true. And it was no small reason why the Mountaineers, for the first time in seemingly a long time, were in position to potentially win in the final stages against a respectable opponent.

It was a one-point game in the final minute before Eron Harris missed a 3-pointer, Baylor's Pierre Jackson rebounded, was fouled and made his foul shots.

Thus, no matter what, WVU players knew when Jackson stepped to the line for those two free throws that it would get the ball back with 18 seconds remaining trailing by only one possession.

But to watch the final possession play out, you wouldn't have known it. It was dribble after dribble from Mountaineer guard Juwan Staten, who couldn't find an open teammate for a potential game-tying 3-pointer.

"I guess they were going to switch everything," Huggins said of the final play. "If that is the case, you have to get it at the rim and score and then foul them."

That, though, is exactly the sort of recognition that has eluded West Virginia this season, and again, the situation seemed to cause several players on the floor to freeze.

And so it was again, with fans exhorting Staten to make a move as seconds ticked away. Ultimately, the Dayton transfer hoisted up a 3-point shot in the final moments, but it was blocked by BU's Gary Franklin and the horn sounded shortly after.

That the final shot somehow fell to Staten, who hasn't made a 3-pointer all season long, was emblematic of what has been a complete inability to understand what needs to occur in critical situations.

It didn't help matters that Staten told reporters more than once after the game that WVU was "going for the win" on that final possession, begging the question if he even realized his team was down by three points and not two.

Understand that this is not solely a criticism of Staten. He is simply the latest and, for the moment, most noteworthy example on a team filled with poor decision-makers.

The other four players on the floor, though -- who seemed frozen in their sneakers -- didn't help matters either.

"That's the worst thing you can do," forward Deniz Kilicli said of that mental breakdown. "You guys watch basketball. How many times do you see that happen to any team? Look at Division I players, and that never happens. Somebody does something, creates a shot and gets the shot off. We couldn't even get the shot off. And that didn't just happen today. This has been happening for a long time, and it's really frustrating for everybody, I'm sure."

Kilicli is exactly right. As bad as this team has been in just about every facet of play at one time or another this season, the biggest weakness WVU has now is that it simply makes bad decisions with regularity.

Until that problem is fixed, it won't matter if the pouters are on the floor or in the lineup. It won't matter if shots are falling or rimming out. It won't matter if the Mountaineers own the glass or dominating defensively. This team will still find ways to lose.


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