WVU Fails to Hold On Again

There was a time not long ago that West Virginia would thrive in games like it played in on Saturday afternoon.

With the biggest crowd of the season on hand at the Coliseum, the Mountaineers looked for a very good portion of the game like it would be able to do to No. 11 Oklahoma State what they had been able to do on a more consistent basis against ranked opponents for the last five to 10 years.

Shots were falling, defensive stops were being made, West Virginia was doing what it needed to do in order to exit with a win.

But as it's gone far too often over the course of the last couple of seasons, the tide began to turn throughout the game's final 20 minutes. Possession by possession, the Cowboys picked up more momentum and the Mountaineers walked off the floor with a 73-72 loss.

It was the 13th time West Virginia has lost in the last 20 games that have been decided by five points or less, and the 15th loss in a row to ranked opponents - a streak that dates back to Jan. 2012 when the Mountaineers beat then-No. 9 Georgetown at the Coliseum.

Of course, it's easy to point to the youth of this team and say that it's nice to see a group depending on so many players who have not played on this kind of stage much be so close to making that jump to being a good team. But, as Bob Huggins likes to say, you shouldn't always have to lose games in order to learn.

Eventually this team is going to have to step up and win games like Saturday's - especially if it is serious about accomplishing its goal of making it back to the NCAA tournament.

For as dangerous as this Mountaineer team can be, and it has shown at times that it can be very good, the lack of ability to play at the level consistently throughout a game has been disappointing. Even if for no other reason than the fact that you can see how good they are able to be and that a team this young has proved that it can outplay some of the nation's best programs for extended periods of time.

In the past, dating back to the days when Huggins' teams were making it fairly deep in the NCAA tournament and John Beilein's groups were making runs, West Virginia has been a team that was always overlooked and, on paper, might have looked like it wasn't quite as good compared to its opponents in big games. But the Mountaineers knew how to step up in those situations and time and time again were able to prove people wrong. Instead of being that team that held the advantage the majority of the time, they were able to get out on front and keep the lead to pull out big wins that would go far in helping its resume for March look good.

That's what this team has not done.

And it's started to make a habit of doing that, and the win totals and postseason appearances show it. Especially after Saturday, time is running out for his Mountaineer team. If it wants to prove that it has really improved, eventually these moral victories will have to turn into wins.

I believe that this group can do that, and WVU will keep getting better and better as March approaches. But it needs to take advantage of golden opportunities when they show themselves - much like the Mountaineers had on Saturday.

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