"Miserable Summer" Finally Put Away By West Virginia?

BUFFALO, N.Y. - West Virginia assistant Josh Eilert believes the Stephen F. Austin loss has been in the heads of the Mountaineers for a year. Did the win over Bucknell finally exorcise that demon?

It was a bit surprising to hear Eilert admit that last year's season ending loss to the Lumberjacks still lingered. While much is often made by the media of such things, players tend to put those aside after a while. However, there was apparently something about that loss, whether due to its timing in the NCAA Tournament or the way in which WVU failed to prepare, that hung with the squad. So, head coach Bob Huggins' lack of a rearview mirror notwithstanding, this game was one that had its roots in last year's Big Dance

"I think it's a huge relief for our guys," Eilert said. "From the time we lost to Stephen F. Austin, it was in the back of our heads. It was a miserable summer. We had a miserable summer because that's all we thought about. We were a better team than Stephen F. Austin but we weren't ready to play. That pressure was there and we tried not to dwell on it, but it seems as if we did a little bit with the way that we came out offensively."

While WVU did play well out of the gate, it began committing a number of errors passing the ball. From perimeter to post, WVU at times was more accurate in hitting Bucknell hands than Mountaineer targets, and that allowed the Bison to cut a 15-point deficit and make it a competitive game. West Virginia made some mystifying decisions with their passes, and thoughts on the causes ranged from forcing the ball and trying to make too much happen to "I don't know" -- a disturbing answer.

There was no such lack of clarity from Eilert.

"We had a lot of time off between games, and I think there was a lot of pressure on in the first game, and we had that monkey on our back from last year," he analyzed directly and succinctly. "We were a little bit on edge offensively. They took some of our guards away and put it in the hands of guys who can't handle the ball, So give them credit for that."

With that simian discarded, though, there still remains the challenge of correcting the passing errors. WVU was better in that aspect in the second half, but it needs to find ways to free up its guards, and also get its wing and post players passing the ball better.

"Guys like Esa [Ahmad] and Nate [Adrian],  when the ball is in their hands, we can't turn the ball over," Eilert summed up. "We have to be better with the ball."

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