A Little Know-Howe: WVU has Lost Much More than Five of Last Six Games - Team has Lost its Identity

By Brad Howe on February 03, 2018 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Press Virginia. What started as a quirkly, fun nickname used to sell a few t-shirts has become much more over the past few years. It's a brand now. 
It’s not just about the specific style of play used by WVU. The press. It means more than that. Toughness. Grittiness. In your face. Never back down. It’s the perfect sub-brand for West Virginia as a state and for the way Bob Huggins’ teams have played throughout his career.
The brand took a hit on Wednesday night in Ames. 
Huggins said as much after the game. “These guys have destroyed Press Virginia” Huggins remarked after West Virginia dropped a 93-77 decision to Iowa State.
It was a maddening, unexplainable performance. For a team, and program, built on defense and effort Wednesday was rock bottom.
Yes, West Virginia had blown double digit leads in three of its last four games. Yes, West Virginia had lost four of its last five games. But, Wednesday was more than just losing a game. It showed West Virginia had lost its identity.
The Iowa State game appeared to be a chance to right the ship after the recent slide. Iowa State is clearly in rebuilding mode after losing Monte Morris, Naz Long, Matt Thomas and Deonte Burton off of last year’s Big 12 Tournament championship team.
The Cyclones were in last place in the Big 12 heading into the game against West Virginia. They were coming off a dreadful performance last Saturday against Tennessee in the Big 12-SEC Challenge.
Iowa State was awful offensively against the Vols. The Cyclones only scored 45 points, the lowest total in the history of Hilton Coliseum. It was the worst offensive output at home for an Iowa State team since 1959.
That performance came just three days prior to the WVU game. And did I mention, Iowa State was without it’s best player, point guard Nick Weiler-Babb. So, heading into the game against West Virginia, you had a last place Iowa State team coming off one of its worst performances in history without its best player. 
I’m not sure there will be a road game situation that sets up any better for WVU all season. It was the perfect chance for WVU to get back and track.
Only it didn’t happen. 
Iowa State ran up and down the court on West Virginia. Time after time, Cyclone players out-hustled WVU and ended up with easy baskets in transition. Layups, dunks, wide open three point shots …Iowa State had its choice. Whatever it wanted, whenever it wanted it. Very few shots were even contested.
The Cyclones shot a blistering 67 percent in the first half and never trailed in the game. The 93 points given up by West Virginia were the most in a regulation game under Bob Huggins. WVU gave up 98 to Pitt in 2010, but that game went into triple overtime.
Iowa State shot 62.1 percent from the field during the game. 
How rare is that against West Virginia? I could find only four other times a team shot 60 percent or better in a win over WVU since Bob Huggins became the head coach.
It was hard to watch. If there is one thing we have come to expect from a Bob Huggins team, it’s effort. In particular it’s defensive effort.  Very rarely are teams able to do what they want to do against WVU. That’s the foundation of the program. Make other teams uncomfortable. 
That simply didn't happen against Iowa State and it was far more troubling than missing shots has been. The lack of effort against Iowa State was stunning.
A team once ranked number two in the country is now reeling. WVU hasn’t lost five of six since a stretch in 2012-13. That version of the Mountaineers went 13-19 on the season.
This is new territory. How will the team respond? 
Will Press Virginia live on or has it been destroyed as Bob Huggins said on Wednesday?
We begin to find out today against Kansas State.
Editor's Note: Photos of WVU putting on defensive pressure against Kentucky and Kansas, as well as of Coach Huggins during a timeout, by Ben Queen of www.benqueenphotography.com.

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