West Virginia Must Gather Itself For Last Opportunity To Define Season

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The finality of lost opportunity has sunk in for West Virginia.

It didn't take long, really. Just a few moments after the game for the emotions to range from disappointed to discouraged to disgruntled. What was lost was readily apparent on the scoreboard, but it extends further. A second straight defeat in the Big 12 Championship title game has the sting that a single loss does not. It's like what they say about kids: Two is more than twice the work. 

In this case, the two causes perhaps more than twice the grief. There are many psychological reasons for this, but the most pressing is that this match-up, unlike some others, actually favored the Mountaineers. WVU had edges in size, depth and the very philosophy of rebounding, which it takes as a bedrock fundamental of the game where Iowa State does not. Yet West Virginia was bested in the very categories in which Press Virginia attempts to excel. ISU rolled up a myriad of unexpected advantages, including points in the paint, second chance points and fast break points, where the Cyclones used 11 steals - 11! - to score almost one of every five of their points.

"It was really the last opportunity we had to get something, and I feel like we just threw it away," said guard Teyvon Myers.

Quite literally. West Virginia committed 13 turnovers, the exact same number as Iowa State. That led, along with the issues of rebounding, to three more shot attempts for the Cyclones. One glance at the final stat sheet prior to the game and there would have been little doubt to whom the spoils would go. 

"Sometimes I do too much and I lose the ball or turn it over," Myers said. "I was just trying to stay simple. Still came up short."

That goes for the entire team. And therein lies the wisdom Bob Huggins was trying to impose postgame. Huggins hearkened back to the 2010 Final Four team, and their ideal of "do what we do."

"You don't need to do any more," Huggins said. "Don't do any less, but do what you do. Do what you're good at doing. We had a bunch of guys who bought into that for awhile. Then it kinda creeps in to where guys who can't dribble want to dribble and guys who can't shoot want to shoot. They constantly want to do things they can't do, and that's when we turn it over."

Here's where the current path of West Virginia's season forks. The Mountaineers have accomplished much, beating the nation's No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the same year, finishing tied for second in the best RPI league in the nation, continuing to flirt with the top 10 throughout. But for all of it, and this is what Myers was getting at, WVU has no hardware, no major banners to hang. It didn't win the Big 12 regular or postseason championship. It hasn't advanced past the Sweet 16 since 2010, and it got lambasted in the lone game it played in that round over the last six years against Kentucky.

For all the good - and there is much - there's still a sense of what could have been, and probably should have been. The lost lead at Kansas, the inexplicable home defeat to Oklahoma. Now the 2016-17 version of the Mountaineers are facing their own mortality. Myers will be gone after the next loss. So will Nate Adrian and Tarik Phillip, along with James Long and Brandon Watkins.

"I just want to win. That's it," Myers said. "Whether I am on the bench or in the game, I want to win. That's all I am trying to do, regardless of whether I contribute or not. The win feels better than anything. Last opportunity to get it, the guys knew what we were here for."

Yet there remains one last chance for one shining moment. What West Virginia does with it from here will largely define the season.


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