The proverbial stuff has hit the fan. Juwan Staten was the most vocal about it, noting that while the Mountaineers are indeed friends on and off the court, they are teammates first, and something must be done to shore up the lack of effort and ability to execute in key situations.
"You have to come out here and play every game to win, and you have to prepare to win," Staten said. "There comes a time when we all have to do that. It comes with experience. We as leaders need to keep drilling it into everybody's heads. We have to change something. It takes more effort. We've tried to be role models in practice. But I think we might need to start getting on people a little more."
The lone bright spot in the defeat was Staten. The point guard recorded his first double-double as a Mountaineer with 16 points and 11 rebounds. He was also the lone player to show solid energy throughout, though as the game slipped away the junior tried to overcompensate for his teammates and finished with a career-high seven turnovers. Staten, following his comments above, went on to note that sometimes, after a coach has said the same things time and again and done so vocally, players can begin to tune those instructions out. He insisted he would begin to try and reiterate the work ethic and minute-in, minute-out effort and intensity it takes to win at this level.
Shooting guard Eron Harris, who scored a game-high 21 points, said he didn't "know what the answer is. I feel like I'm giving my effort. I don't know the answer, but hopefully I find it. I'm going to keep playing 100 percent and control what I can control. I can't control everything. I hope we find the answer."
Harris snapped a three-game shooting skid by hitting five of 12 shots from the floor, including four of eight from three-point range. But the sophomore was largely quiet after canning a couple early threes, and it surely wasn't his best complete game of the season. West Virginia got little from the rest of the team, especially the bench. Gary Browne's six points were the lone reserve scoring for West Virginia; Nathan Adrian, Brandon Watkins, Remi Dibo and Tyrone Hughes tallied zero points in a combined 34 minutes. The Mountaineers, who shot just 32.7 percent, also seemed slow on the rotation and flatfooted on challenging drives. The interior ball movement for K-State, which shot a season-best 54.9 percent, was excellent. In short, it was a complete dismantling in WVU's third-worst conference loss of the Big 12 era and its worst overall loss this season.
"They made all the right plays," Harris said. "We couldn't stop what they were doing on offense, and if they missed, they got the rebound and scored on the rebound. It seems like it always happens to us."
If it doesn't stop happening – and this isn't anything that can't be fixed, or at least nudged toward better overall execution – WVU will miss the postseason for the second straight year. The Mountaineers, 10-8 and losers of three in a row, face what amounts to a must-win on Wednesday when it plays host Texas Tech at the Coliseum. After that, West Virginia will be a significant underdog in road contests at Oklahoma State and Baylor. That could push the mark under .500 with two home games and then Kansas still looming, meaning WVU will be pushing simply to reach the NIT and not miss the postseason for a second consecutive year. There isn't anything that can't be fix, or at least bettered to the point where the Mountaineers can win enough finish with more victories than loses. But, as Staten said, it must start now.