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Effort changes with the competition for WVU

By Staff | Jan 20, 2017

An overflow crowd at the Coliseum. Undefeated and top-ranked conference foe Baylor was in Morgantown. West Virginia came out against the Bears and had most of its players give of themselves in a hustling performance that destroyed any plans Baylor had when facing the Mountaineer pressure defense.

Daxter Mills made an effort. So did Esa Ahmad and Teyvon Myers.

And West Virginia profited from the 29 turnovers the frustrated Bears committed in losing 89-68 in a nationally televised game.

The students careened on to the floor to celebrate beating the No.1 ranked team in the land.

Nathan Adrian has had best game in his nearly four-year stand as a Mountaineer. He plays 30 minutes, scores 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field and gets six rebounds.

Jevon Carter, the most-trusted Mountaineer by the coaching staff, scores 17 points and records seven assists in 33 minutes. Tarik Phillip makes all four of his free throws, scores 11 points and logs 22 minutes of playing time.

The Mountaineers make 9-of-20 three-point attempts.

Shoved into the background is the statistic that shows West Virginia making 14-of-23 (60.9-percent) of its free throws.

But just off in the distance is a trip to Austin to play Texas in another conference game. Texas defeated the Mountaineers both times the teams met last season. There would be only a smattering of West Virginia fans at the game.

Would West Virginia come off its airplane with the needed emotion to dispatch the Longhorns, who entered with only a 7-9 overall record?

Lamont West doesn’t show much drive in games at home. Neither does Brandon Watkins. Don’t count on either of them to help with hustle or just the average effort one would expect from college-age players.

Ahmad played his poorest game of the season, committing five turnovers and scoring four points in 15 minutes. Elijah Macon receives 11 minutes of playing time . . . doesn’t score . . . has one personal foul and one turnover.

West Virginia wins, 74-72, as Myers scores a career high 16 points and Jevon Carter plays 35 minutes and scores 15 points. Tarik Phillip plays 30 minutes and has 14 points.

Texas shows why it is now 7-10 overall and has one win in five Big 12 games. The Longhorns don’t have much talent . . . and their fervor for the game is lacking.

Only Kansas at 5-0 in league games is above the Mountaineers in the conference standings. Somehow Coach Bill Self manages to get a needed team-wide effort when his Jayhawks play on the road, no matter the conference opponent.

West Virginia’s conference record was 4-1 after its two-point win in Austin. Baylor came back from its 21-point loss in Morgantown to win its next conference game and was also holding a 4-1 league record.

What would this week hold for the sometimes cruise-control Mountaineers? Stumbling Oklahoma was in Morgantown for a mid-week game. The Sooners were a Final Four team just a year ago. Can the home crowd “force” the Mountaineers to find the effort they should routinely show?

After the Oklahoma appearance comes a road game in little Manhattan, Kansas against Kansas State. Will Carter, Phillip, Myers and Adrian get needed hustle-help from anybody else? That’s not intended to be a rhetorical question, but it probably will be because it’s another long airplane ride to a place few of the players know anything about to see a team that receives little attention.

A struggle . . . at best. A sluggish loss at worst . . . in a conference game that has loads of importance on the national scene and will have significance when the seeding is figured for the NCAA Tournament in March.