"They had the 'lack of' part right," Huggins said. What was meant by that is this: There's a minute though distinct difference between energy and effort. Energy is little more than the vigor or verve required for any physical activity of a certain duration. Effort is the direction of that energy in an attempt to accomplish a goal. One can have energy without focused effort - think of the random running around of children on a playground - but one cannot have effort without energy.
And that's where West Virginia has struggled over three of the last four games. The Mountaineers (15-3, 4-2 Big 12) have brought energy on a rather routine basis. But they haven't been able to concentrate that energy into the proper format, and thus translate it into quality play. Consider Elijah Macon as a prime example. The forward was bursting with energy against Oklahoma, and it when focused it sowed in the form of a 13-point, four-rebound performance in a season-high 19 minutes played. The points tied for the most for the junior since he netted 18 versus Stetson in November of 2015.
Macon scored on putbacks, drop steps and spins in hitting 5-of-7 shots from the field and 3-of-4 at the line with a block. It seemed both ends of the floor fed into Macon's game, as the more Macon continued to score, the more energy he played with on the defensive side. There was just one problem with Macon's display. He had only half the needed equation. Macon brought plenty of energy, but it wasn't focused effectively. On multiple occasions Macon was way late on help side defense, yet still tried for an impossible block. That left the opposite side rebound wide open, which is the most common side shots come off the rim and glass. It resulted on a pair of easy Oklahoma putbacks, part of OU's 48 points in the paint and 20 second chance points. It wasn't that Macon wasn't playing with energy. It was just that the vibrancy needed better focus.
"It's just people coming ready to play," Macon said. "You have to come ready to play every day. Going into that overtime (versus Oklahoma), I think we took our foot off the gas. We should have just kept going."
But with a purpose. It was the same sort of issue that plagued the Mountaineers in the press at times, when it failed to rotate properly, against OU's interior players, when WVU helped up when instructed otherwise, and when Tarik Phillip played the front of Jordan Woodard in trying to make a spectacular play instead of properly defending and making the more routine one to force overtime. Woodard raced by, was never cut off in transition, and somewhat easily scored the game winner on a simple lay-in.
"How do you catch it and go the length of the floor in five seconds?" head coach Bob Huggins said. We're supposed to be the best pressing team in America. How does that happen? You can't steer him one way or the other? He straight-lined it from one end to the other. ... The truth of the matter is we haven't ran the ball down from behind in how long? That's what we are really good at. We haven't made a steal below the foul line in how long? That's effort. That's not lack off energy. That's lack of effort. They had the 'lack of' part right, he just substituted energy for effort."
That manifested itself in other ways as well. West Virginia settled for three-pointers, shooting a whopping 25 in 71 overall attempts from the floor (35.2% of the shots) instead of driving the ball, and it forced just 12 turnovers - for many reasons - while committing 13 themselves and only managing to break even with the Sooners with each scoring 15 points off them.
"We wanted our guards to get in more, shoot more lay-ups instead of three-pointers," Macon said. "I feel like we shot too many threes instead of attacking the rim and getting those bigs in trouble. I feel like we got away from that, and that hurt us the most. We tried to work on screening and rolling, tried to switch cut so we could get a mismatch, try to get the ball to the rim."
But virtually none of that happened, and at least portions of the problems stem from the inability to translate that energy into effort.
"Get ready for Kansas State," Macon said. "We have to prepare and get ready, like for every team in the Big 12. You can't take any team lightly. Every team is good."