What a fitting way to lose. To conclude a 51-foul, 29-turnover affair, West Virginia had a chance to prolong the agony on its final possession down 61-58 with 37.9 seconds left.
The good news: the Mountaineers managed to get three shots off.
The bad news: only one of those shots hit the rim, and even that one had no chance at actually dropping.
Rewatching that final play, I counted six bad decisions by West Virginia in a matter of 23 seconds.
Here’s a breakdown of everything that went wrong.
A three in this situation is totally fine — it if’s an open look. Carter, a 38.6 percent shooter and West Virginia’s go-to scorer and playmaker, is the guy you’d want taking that shot.
Except the shot he took was perfectly contested by Nigel Williams-Goss.
The result? An airball.
That’s an instance where driving for two is undeniably better than a quick-triggered three.
2. But wait! Daxter Miles Jr. swoops in for an offensive rebound right under the basket. And…he kicks it right back out.
Kicking the ball out with 20 seconds left isn’t the end of the world. Miles is a little guy at 6’3″ and he could’ve found himself attempting a shot over 7-footer Zach Collins. Maybe he’d make a shot. Maybe he’d miss and get fouled. Maybe he’d miss without getting a whistle.
But he didn’t even look at the rim. Instead the ball went right back to the perimeter for Carter…
3. …who proceeded to back away from the basket and take another, deeper contested three.
At least it didn’t airball! But the shot was still nowhere close, grazing the rim.
But again, West Virginia grabbed the offensive rebound thanks to a long bounce that Nathan Adrian tracked down. He made a smart move — in case you haven’t caught on, that was a rarity here — by getting the ball back to Carter’s hands.
Even though Carter had just taken two ill-advised shots, he’s still a veteran guard and West Virginia’s best player for late-game situations.
It’s clear the Mountaineers need a three now.
4. Carter backs the ball out and runs the clock almost all the way down.
So there’s Carter, more than 40 feet away from the basket with under nine seconds to go. With West Virginia’s disorganized offense, it’s clear the Mountaineers will be resorting to hero ball to force overtime, exactly like they did on their first two shots of the possession.
Except now, with Carter wasting precious seconds, he’s eliminated West Virginia’s chance for an offensive rebound or foul if the game-tying attempt misses.
5. After running the clock down, Carter can’t even free himself up. So with 1.3 seconds left he passes off to Miles, who’s farther away from the hoop and only slightly more open.
Okay, so Carter would have been throwing up a prayer over two defenders anyway. Maybe passing it up for a prayer over one defender is actually a good thing.
6. Miles catches with 0.7 seconds left, and not realizing the clock he dribbles around Josh Perkins’ closeout. His shot was nowhere close, but it didn’t count anyway.
If it helps West Virginia fans (it probably won’t), here’s the final possession set to Benny Hill music.
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) March 24, 2017
It’s a heartbreaking finish to West Virginia’s season, but the good news for the rest of us is hopefully we don’t have to sit through another foul-fest until November.