MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — In a three-week span, West Virginia went from the nation's longest winning streak to its worst slump in four years. The way it's happened is just as puzzling.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — In a three-week span, West Virginia went from the nation's longest winning streak to its worst slump in four years.
The way it's happened is just as puzzling.
The Mountaineers have lost four of their past five games, including surrendering double-digit leads in the second half in losses to No. 10 Texas Tech on the road and to No. 7 Kansas and No. 21 Kentucky at home.
Despite the slump, No. 15 West Virginia (16-5, 5-3 Big 12) remains in the title chase at the midpoint of the conference season and will get the chance to start turning things around Wednesday night at Iowa State (11-9, 2-6).
"This is behind us now and we've just got to focus on the Big 12 Conference. We've still got a shot for that," said West Virginia guard James "Beetle" Bolden. "We've just got to come ready and prepare for each and every game like it's our last."
West Virginia is among the Big 12's top scoring teams but has made half of its shots only once in league play and is last in field-goal percentage. Coach Bob Huggins has criticized some players for taking shots out of their range or failing to get the ball to open teammates.
"I've got some guys I can't trust," Huggins said. "And when you have guys you can't trust, how you trust to put them on the floor? Because it's not about them. It's about us."
Leading scorer Jevon Carter often has tried to shoulder the load by himself. He had 18 first-half points Saturday against Kentucky but got double teamed and was limited to eight after halftime in the 83-76 loss.
Carter has taken 20 percent of the team's field goal attempts this season.
"Other guys got to be more aggressive," Carter said. "Don't worry about making a mistake. Just play."
Bolden has tried to do that but, like his teammates, has been sporadic. The sophomore had 17 points against home-state Kentucky and 19 in a win over Texas. He had three combined points in losses to Texas Tech, Kansas and TCU.
Sophomore forward Teddy Allen had a pair of 20-point efforts against No. 12 Oklahoma and Kansas State, then was benched for two games for what Huggins termed an attitude problem. Allen is 1-of-9 from the floor in two games since.
The downturn has coincided with the return of forward Esa Ahmad, who was second in team scoring and third in rebounds last season and served an NCAA academic suspension for the first two months of this season. West Virginia is 1-4 since his return, and Ahmad is 0-of-12 from the floor in his last two games.
"Our shot selection's got to be really good," Huggins said. "We've got to make a very conscious effort to block out and keep people off the glass. Our guys on the perimeter can't keep turning guys loose. They've got to actually ... guard a little bit, which we haven't done."
Earlier this season West Virginia had a 15-game winning streak, including a 68-61 win over No. 2 Virginia on Dec. 5, and rose to No. 2 in the AP poll on Jan. 8, its best showing since 1959.
The rest of the month has been one big reality check. There were second-half leads of 11 points to Texas Tech, 15 to Kansas and 17 to Kentucky that slipped away.
"We're playing better teams," Huggins said. "We haven't made a shot. Go back and look at the Virginia game, we made shots. Now we're not making shots. That happens. So you have to do other things to compensate. Still, I thought, when we ran what I asked them to run, we had some success."