What to Take From WVU's Loss

It was a big step back from what West Virginia looked like early on through the first eight games on the season.

For the first 31 minutes of Thursday's 80-71 loss to Missouri, the Mountaineer team that was fun to watch offensively had reverted back to the struggles it had a year ago.

The uptempo flow was gone, the shots weren't falling and the deficit was growing minute by minute.

With 8:55 to play in the game, a Jordan Clarkson jumper gave Missouri a 65-40 lead.

West Virginia was shooting 15-of-46 from the field, and in danger of letting the blowout get even worse. At least, that's what it would have done a season ago.

Time and time again last year, the Mountaineers would fall behind, get down on themselves and the rout would be on. But, once again, this group showed that it was quite different from that team. Over the course of that final 8:55, WVU outscored Missouri 31-15. The Mountaineers made 12 of their 19 shot attempts from the field, including going 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, while making all four of their free throws and turning the ball over just once. WVU's offensive rating jump from an abysmal 66.8 in the first half to 122.5 in the second half.

In short, West Virginia was able to keep fighting, not pack it in and get back to playing the style that it had played the times it was successful.

But while it made the game a respectable nine-point loss to the Tigers, it's still just that - a loss.

With a chance to pick up its first non-conference win against a team from a major conference that was ranked in the RPI top 100 since it beat Miami (Fla.) in Dec. 2012, West Virginia wasn't able to get the job done.

And as Bob Huggins said after the game, the Mountaineers are running out of opportunities to pick up non-conference wins that will look good on their resume. This was the start of a four-game stretch that will be followed by No. 19 Gonzaga Tuesday at the Coliseum and then Marshall and Purdue. Even those last two games won't be that much for the RPI, at least not yet, as the Herd and the Boilermakers are currently both outside of the top 200 in the RPI.

While it's definitely encouraging to see this team fight back and show that it has progressed from a year ago, you only can take so much from a loss like this. In the end, it just counts as another loss that won't do much for the Mountaineers' tournament resume when March rolls around.

The major point that Huggins continued to refer to during his interview on the radio show was that this team tried to go against the thing that had made it so good for the first eight games. Players were trying to do things they weren't capable of doing.

That had been a really nice thing about this team, they knew their roles and they did what they needed to do. They weren't trying to be something they weren't.

When they went away from that, they struggled.

And yes, they came back. That's nice.

However, this is a WVU team that is trying to work its way back into the conversation as an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament. Those teams step up and win big games, something West Virginia hasn't proved it can do quite yet.

The Mountaineers have another chance against Gonzaga and will have plenty more in Big 12, for sure.

But they need to start taking advantage of those chances and play the way they can when things are clicking before it's too late.

Because they don't have a ton of time left.

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