Lessons Learned

In West Virginia's five losses this season, the Mountaineers have lost by a combined 28 points. WVU had plenty of chances with time winding down in all of those games to make a run and potentially take a lead - only to come up short, not quite able to make enough plays to leave victorious.

Now, as they prepare for their final non-conference game of the season Sunday against William & Mary before kicking off Big 12 Conference play, the Mountaineers are able to look back at those games and see where the big problems were.

"You learn from the past," said West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins. "I'm a big believer in history. We're going to continue to learn from all the things we didn't do well and the reasons we didn't win the games that we should have won.

"If you don't learn from that, then you're probably not going to learn. If we don't learn from that, we've probably got the wrong guys."

A lot of the issues WVU has dealt with down the stretch in close games have come on the defensive end of the floor.

Whether it came in the form of giving up easy layups, quick transition points or wide-open looks from the field, the Mountaineers have struggled to play tough defense for the whole 40 minutes. Something that Huggins said is not uncommon for young teams. But, eventually, there comes a time when the freshmen have played enough that they should no longer be considered typical freshmen.

So far this season, West Virginia's three freshmen are all averaging more than 10 minutes per game, with Devin Williams and Nathan Adrian seeing the floor for 25 and 18 minutes on average, respectively.

"We have so many guys that are used to being the man. You don't put your best high school player on the best player on the other team, so we've got a lot of bad habits that we've got to break. It's not anybody's fault, it's just the way it is. But that's what happens when you play so many young guys," Huggins said. "We're to the point where, maybe, you take the kid gloves off and now you treat them like veterans because they have played 12 games, and they've all played. They've all played minutes."

With the little things that have plagued the Mountaineers all season, it's been tough to overcome those issues. That was especially true in a game like West Virginia's most recent loss to Purdue. The Mountaineers shot 17 percent from beyond the arc in the three-point loss after entering the game making 42 percent of their shots from three-point range.

"Everybody says you went 3-of-18, that's why you lost. We lost because we gave up so many layups to the other team. If we had made them shoot jump shots, instead of shooting layups, we probably would have won the game," Huggins said.

"It's not that we haven't worked on it. It's not that we haven't talked about it. We don't rebound the ball the way we rebound the ball, we don't finish at the rim. It's hard when you don't finish around the goal. That's got to change."

That can be fixed by consistently playing hard every day. Huggins was not happy with the way some players came back from the team's short break over the holidays, saying it will be easy to tell which ones didn't play hard in practice shortly after Sunday's 3 p.m. tip.

"Playing hard is a learned skill. I don't think guys are born and they just go play hard," Huggins said. "I think it's learned like anything else, and competing is too. I've got a lot of guys that didn't compete when I first got them but ended up being great competitors.

"Most of them were good (in practice), but there were some guys that didn't do anything. You'll be able to tell that by their minutes Sunday."


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