Brad Penner \ USAToday Sports Images

West Virginia's Problems Exist, but Good Results Persist for the Mountaineers.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia played what might have been its second-worst game of the season, next to the Virginia loss, but found a way to win nonetheless in the Big 12 opener at Kansas State.

Bob Huggins was almost prophetic after West Virginia's win over Virginia Tech earlier in the week. When asked about his team’s propensity for throwing the ball away, he offered a concerned reply.

“I don’t know why we throw it away. I wish I knew, but we do, we throw it around. It’s going to get us. Eventually it will get us,” he said.

For most of regulation, and some of both overtime periods today in The Little Apple, it seemed it would get West Virginia sooner rather than later. The Mountaineers turned the ball over 15 times, which resulted in 13 Kansas State points, but found a way to scratch and claw their way to an indisputably impressive victory to kick off Big 12 play.

There is no question, problems exist with this team. As Huggins said, they turn it over way, way too often. The Mountaineers haven’t been able to hit the broadside of a barn from 3-point range all year, and that continued today as they shot a cringe-worthy 3-for-20 from deep today.

The shooting troubles aren’t limited to the deep ball either. West Virginia has been woeful at the foul line this year. Several times today, the Mountaineers had chances to get some breathing room at the charity stripe, but could hit just 20-of-31 free throws. A performance like that would doom a lot of teams.

But the Mountaineers keep winning. They won despite themselves today, and have bolstered their overall record, sitting at 12-1 and 1-0 in the Big 12 after an absolute barnburner in “The Octagon of Doom”.

Watching this game, I was ready to write a postgame column about how West Virginia’s chickens had finally come home to roost, but the Mountaineers keep winning.

In the end, you have to think Huggins will be right. These problems will cost West Virginia a few games this year, but not so far.

In reality, you are never going to play your best game every time you take the floor. Devin Williams and Jevon Carter combined for just 13 points today, but it didn’t matter.

This is a team that is deep enough to win when its best players are not at their best. Jaysean Paige came off the bench to save the day with a career-high 25 points. Tarik Phillip provided a gutsy 30-minutes off the bench as well, pouring in 14 points, five assists and four rebounds.

If you want to be one of the teams playing into April, you need big contributions off the bench on a consistent basis. Paige has scored in double figures in six of West Virginia’s last eight games, and Phillip has done the same in four of the team’s last five.

This was not a pretty game by any stretch of the imagination, but the truly good teams find a way to win the ugly ones.

West Virginia is not without its problems, but this group continues to win. Two months from now, I doubt we will remember just how ugly this game was, but we will remember that the Mountaineers came on top, and that’s all that matters for them.

Winning this game sets a great tone for the start of Big 12 play. West Virginia has now won its first two true road games of the year, and has a chance to make it three-in-a-row Monday at TCU.

If the Mountaineers can do that, they would announce their legitimacy to the top dogs in the Big 12, showing that they are good enough to make a run at the conference crown this year.


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