MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Over the years, Bob Huggins has referred to the game of Whac-A-Mole when describing the state of his team.
A problem arises that needs correcting, and he and his staff correct it. Another issue or two pop up immediately, once those are squashed, but suddenly more appear that need immediate attention. That’s the current cycle Huggins finds himself in once again.
Turnovers were the issue with the Mountaineers to start the season. In recent weeks, they’ve found a solution to take better care of the ball.
What was once an “alarming rate” to Bob Huggins has turned into an average of 12.2 per game. WVU’s last two games saw seven and five miscues, respectively, its lowest marks of the season.
The problem that seemingly popped up out of nowhere in the meantime is free throw shooting.
West Virginia entered Big 12 Conference play ranked first in the league in free throw percentage (73.9). Five games into the league schedule, it now ranks ninth in that category at 69.3 percent. That number put the Mountaineers at 235th nationally.
Through the first 12 non-conference games, WVU shot below 70 percent from the line on only four occasions. It hasn’t eclipsed 65 percent from the charity stripe in four of its five league games.
The Mountaineers have attempted 143 free throws in their last five contests. They’ve missed 56 of them. In their most recent loss to Oklahoma, they finished 8-for-16 from the line, their worst showing in that category this season.
“I plan on getting in the gym and doing something about it, but everybody has to do it. You can’t force people to get into the gym and shoot free throws. It has to be their choice,” senior forward Tre Mitchell said. “It really comes down to how much you care about the dudes that are in the uniform with you and the name on the front of the uniform. What are you willing to sacrifice for those people? That’s what it comes down to.”
WVU is getting to the line more than all but one team in the Big 12. It has shot a total of 404 foul shots, while Baylor has a slight advantage at 406 free throws. The Bears are shooting 73.6 percent, third-best in the conference, for comparison.
Even though its percentage continues to drop, West Virginia still remains second in the league in free throws made with 280.
No. 14 TCU is only slightly above WVU, as it is shooting 70.6 percent from the line. Its leading scorer Mike Miles Jr. has attempted more free throws than anyone in the league. He’s connected on 70 of his 101 tries.
Miles, the Big 12’s second-leading scorer, will lead the ranked Horned Frogs against the Mountaineers on Wednesday night. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on ESPN+.