It was puzzling, this way the game played out. West Virginia had been successful in disrupting Iowa State's offense and in taking advantage of some of the Cyclones' defensive shortcomings in the two wins during the regular season. However, it was unable to do those things a third time in falling in the Big 12 Championship.
The numbers told the story. Iowa State got three more shots than the Mountaineers -- a sure sign of trouble for a team that lives on extra chances. It didn't get a turnover advantage, as that total wound up in a 13-all tie. ISU, not the most powerful of rebounding teams, outboarded WVU by four. It yielded 26 two-point field goals, with several coming on unopposed drives to the hoop. And the gold annd blue shot itself it the foot by missing nine of its first 15 free throw attempts. The problem was, no one knew exactly what went wrong, or how to correct it when it did.
"I just think they were passing the ball and making shots. We let them get runouts and let people that shouldn't hurt us hurt us," Tarik Phillip said. "They were reading passing lanes and jumping the ball. Turnovers killed us."
True, but the reasons for WVU's poor play remained elusive. In truth, the Mountaineers didn't play well all week in Kansas City, but as acting assistant coach Josh Eilert pointed out, it wasn't the same thing every night. Poor shooting on Friday night nearly did the Mountaineers in, but on Saturday they hit almost 52% from the field. They last time they shot so high a rate and lost was more than four years ago against Oklahoma. Against the Cyclones, it was a different set of problems.
Jevon Carter, certainly frustrated with his play, didn't have much to help with after waiting for a long while to speak with the few media members in attendance. He said West Virginia didn't try to change anything in light of K-State's defensive tactics against him on Friday, but that adjustments, or a lack thereof, weren't a key to the game. "We turned the ball over too much, didn't rebound it. We just didn't play well tonight.
"I don't know honestly," he continued in trying to come up with anything common in West Virginia's uneven play all week. "It wasn't like we were getting ball pressure tonight. We were just loose with the ball. Obviously I don't have an answer. I don't know what happened. We just didn't play well tonight."
That was the only thing that was evident, and it was just as clear as the sounds of a post-game celebration that the Mountaineers were forced to listen too, at least from a distance, for the second year in a row.
"We fell short again, Phillip summed up. There wasn't much to it, we just fell short again."