Bob Huggins is never one to mince his words. And he certainly didn’t do that following a 77-69 loss in Lawrence to the Kansas Jayhawks.
The Mountaineers actually played a pretty well-rounded game in a difficult road environment. They shot 44% from the field and an impressive 54% from three-point range. WVU outrebounded KU 33-30. But they didn’t nearly live up to their “Press Virginia” nickname as they forced only eight Kansas turnovers. Now a big reason for such a low number? Fouls that were being called against the Mountaineers.
In the game, WVU was called for 26 fouls, Kansas for just 14. But the even bigger disparity came at the free throw line where Kansas had 35 free throw attempts, making 26, while West Virginia had a grant total of two. Yep, two. Sagaba Konate made one, Jevon Carter missed one.
Well head coach Bob Huggins had seen enough and he was thrown out of the game in the final seconds for cursing out an official after arguing a call. The head coach admitted after the game that, “It’s been building.”
Whether he meant building in just this game or over the season wasn’t clear. But here are some numbers.
West Virginia has been outshot at the free throw line, by a wide margin, over the past month.
Their recent games:
KU: 35 FT vs. 2 for WVU
TCU: 19 FT vs. 12 for WVU
OK State: 36 FT vs. 28 for WVU
Oklahoma: 19 FT vs. 9 for WVU
K-State: 20 FT vs. 24 for WVU
Iowa State: 15 FT vs. 14 for WVU
Kentucky: 29 FT vs. 18 for WVU
TCU: 33 FT vs. 22 for WVU
That’s a total of 129 free throws for the Mountaineers compared to 206 for their opponents over that eight-game stretch. For the season, WVU opponents have taken 308 free throws in Big 12 play, which is the most in the conference, while the Mountaineers have only attempted 235 free throws, the third fewest in the Big 12. But obviously Saturday takes the cake.
Following the game, Huggins was disgusted, saying, “I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game where the disparity was what it is. 35-2. I have never been in a game like that.”
He was also asked what he told his team following the loss, to which he said, “It wasn’t their fault.” Another roast of the officiating.
But then, Huggins went on a mini, yet tempered, rant about how the officials never have to face the media after games, but the players do, saying, “I don’t know why officials want to be a part of the game, but they don’t want to be a part of the game that has to answer. Why aren’t they answering your questions? I mean we’re going to bring 19, 21-year-old kids who don’t get paid and you’re going to ask them questions… because they [officials] don’t want to get asked ‘why didn’t you call this?’ or ‘why didn’t you call that?'”
On this note, he’s not wrong. College officials have often cited that they are not full-time employees, therefore asking them to partake in things like post-game press conferences, when many need to get back to their lives and careers, is not fair. That would be a semi-plausible, if it wasn’t for the fact that, ya know, the players are just on scholarship and don’t exactly get paid to do what they do. But they still face the music after every game and get asked the tough questions.
Of course, Huggins’ Press Virginia style of play means he’s more likely to have his team called for fouls, some of which may be questionable. As the game has become more free flowing, hand checking has led to several questionable foul calls in recent years. But that’s the risk Huggins has to know he is taking with where the game of basketball has gone and is continuing to go: benefiting the offense over the defense.
But regardless, 35-2 is unacceptable.
So good for Huggins for standing up for himself, his program and his players. That’s what he does best.