By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
This is not headline news anymore, yet it screams to be said over and over.
West Virginia can’t shoot the basketball.
They prove that game after game after game unless something freakish happens, like Kevin Noreen stepping outside and making the 3-point shots the guards can’t make.
This time they proved it against a team that really doesn’t have any business beating them, a Duquesne team that lost much of its talent and ran off its coach, a fellow we all know down West Virginia’s way named Ron Everhart.
Well, even Everhart knowing the Dukes, even teaming that with a Hall of Fame coach in Bob Huggins, doesn’t help if no one can put the ball in the basket, the Mountaineers scoring all of 20 second-half points in blowing a 15-point lead and losing, 60-56, their fourth loss in eight games.
Oh, yes, ahead on Saturday?
Just John Beilein’s undefeated and No. 3 ranked Michigan team.
Now there are any number of ways to look at what transpired here at the Consol Energy Center. You could say that WVU didn’t play defense in the second half, letting the Dukes hit 53.6 percent of their shots ... but that wouldn’t be right.
See, it was hard for them to miss as they were grabbing rebounds — outrebounding WVU, 54-39 — and running down the court on fast break, scoring 18 of their points off breaks.
What would be right though would be to point out that WVU shot 28.1 percent from the field in the second half, 33.3 percent for the game.
They shoot the way the WVU football team plays defense.
Jabarie Hinds has become the poster child for it, going 1 for 7 shooting this time and now having hit 22 of 65 shots for the season, just barely better than 33.3 percent ... which, no matter how you slice it, is unacceptable.
When breaking down the game, Coach Bob Huggins eventually arrived at one point.
“They made their shots. We didn’t,” he said.
It isn’t that they are trying. In fact, they might be trying too hard, but the more they miss, the more the opposition packs people inside around Deniz Kilicli and renders him useless, and there is only one way to fix that and that’s to make some jump shots.
“If not, they are just going to stand in there,” Huggins said.
Kilicli is tiring of it, in part because the way he is being played is making him look bad ... or is it the way he’s playing doing that?
It’s hard to tell, but Huggins did note that “we got a guy playing 33 minutes and he got one defensive rebound ... and he’s the biggest guy on the floor.”
Kilicli was the only one to fit that description.
“The last two games they have put everyone in the paint and they will keep doing it until we make some shots,” he said.
The first half was ugly basketball but WVU did use its defense to shut down the Duquesne shooters and to get some transition baskets, making it look as if it didn’t matter if they were sharp from the outside.
At halftime they led, 36-23, and guards Juwan Staten and Gary Browne each hade 10 ponts, Brown even hitting two of the three 3s WVU would score in the first half.
Then came the second half. Staten scored three points, Browne none. WVU had only one 2, that from Matt Humphrey who saw 14 minutes of playing time and couldn’t quite understand what happened.
“We got complacent,” he theorized. “We were up 13, 15, whatever it was, you don’t lose games like that ... not in college basketball.”
But WVU lost this one.
“We didn’t get back in transition. We didn’t rebound,” Humphrey said. “That’s not how we play. That’s a recipe to lose.”
But that’s just what was being cooked up on the court before 6,244 fans, most of them West Virginia fans who well may have saved the day by coming up early to Christmas shop.
Duquesne simply began hitting shots and you could see their confidence soar. This was a team that went 0-of-8 on 3s in the first half who canned 3 of 11 in the second half, a team that sliced into that 13-point halftime deficit until it was 53-53, then took the lead on a pair of transition layups by Errick Colter.
West Virginia could never get the lead back.
It came down to one final chance, down by 3, four seconds left and Browne at the free throw line.
He missed the first, then intentionally tried to miss the second, as if he had to, the shot being so far off it didn’t hit the rim and went over to Duquesne, which made one final free throw to ice it at 60-57.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.