By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Of all the noticeable things in West Virginia University’s humiliating 20-point loss at Baylor on Wednesday night, and there certainly were a lot of noticeable things going on in this circus of a performance, perhaps the most lasting images were provided by Deniz Kilicli.
They came on a couple of occasions as he found himself thrashing away on the floor, chasing after a loose basketball, trying to gain possession, to bring it into West Virginia’s possession, although who knows what they would do with it once they had it.
In a sea of ineptitude, Kilicli at least was putting forth an effort that perhaps would not have been necessary had it been there earlier in the season, but that was at a time when he was in as much of a funk as the rest of the team was on this night.
Kilicli, you see, senses what he wants most out of life at present slipping away from him and he is putting forth everything inside him to avoid it from happening, although the realization ought to be rattling around inside his head today that the inevitable is almost at hand.
Kilicli is in his final season as a college player. He is the lone holdover from the Final Four team left among the active players, although Da’Sean Butler remains on hand as a graduate assistant. Of all of his teammates, Kilicli knows the feeling of reaching the Final Four and to think that his career could end in the NIT or CBI or whatever is abhorrent to him.
“I don’t want to go out like that,” he has said too many times to count as his team has won a few and lost a few, as it played itself into a situation that seems impossible to rectify any longer.
The three-game winning streak offered some hope that answers had been found, but it turned out all that was found was a trio of Big 12 teams that are worse than West Virginia.
Looking forward WVU faces a beatable Texas Tech team on Saturday at the Coliseum, but then must run through the upper echelon of the conference, needing to win as many as it loses along the way simply to be remembered as a .500 team, which guarantees nothing but mediocrity.
The Mountaineers still have to play at Kansas, at Oklahoma and at Kansas State, a murderer’s row of road opponents.
No, Kilicli will not be spending March of his senior year in the NCAA Tournament and, yes, some of the blame must be accepted by him, but in a way you feel the disappointment that he feels for he really has tried to salvage his season and his game in recent days.
The Baylor game saw him at his most emotional, involved in less than “Yes, coach”-“No, coach” conversation with Huggins as the coach jumped him for a bad play moments after he had tried to make up for it by wrestling for the ball on the floor.
Then there was the technical foul he picked up after throwing the basketball away in disgust following a foul that he thought to be unjustly pinned upon him, something that was not a rare happening with any number of players who were victimized by another miserable Big 12 officiating crew.
That he later went up and seemed to apologize to an official, giving him a pat on the fanny, only went toward proving that Kilicli is basically one of those nice guys Huggins has said his team was, too nice to win.
The situation with this year’s team was that Kilicli was key to any success it would have and, even though the desire was raging within him, for he was the senior and the one inside force that had to be at the top of his game.
“He has to be a factor for us or we can’t win,” Huggins noted following the Baylor game. “If it wasn’t for Deniz we couldn’t get a shot. Deniz collapses that defense.”
His presence inside means defenders are drawn to him. It should open up the high post when Dominique Rutledge or Kevin Noreen is in the game, but they have refused to take advantage of it.
“We won’t shoot the ball in the high post. I tell Dominique to shoot the ball. I tell Noreen to shoot the ball,” Huggins said.
But they won’t, so no one guards them, sagging on Kilicli, and that takes two options out of the offense.
Now, it hardly matters anymore because there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Kilicli will play out his career, hoping somehow that it all begins to click and they sweep the remainder of the schedule, which is as likely as Huggins being invited to join the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.