MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Erik Stevenson leads West Virginia in scoring, but he has yet to see the end of a Big 12 basketball game.
Much to the chagrin of head coach Bob Huggins, the fifth-year guard has fouled out of both of WVU’s conference games this season, earning technical fouls in each contest. His latest technical was avoidable: after hitting a go-ahead three-pointer against Oklahoma State, he turned to former Cowboy star Marcus Smart, who was sitting courtside, and made a gesture to his crotch.
A minute later, Stevenson picked up his fifth foul, leaving the game as WVU’s leading scorer and stifling a massive momentum shift for WVU.
“Two times we had the game going our way, two times somebody thought it was more important that they saw him than they saw us,” Huggins said. “That’s wrong.”
Stevenson prides himself on his physical and emotional play, and it shows up in his stats. He has picked up the most fouls among WVU’s starters, earning 40 in 14 games, and while his two most recent appearances are his first times fouling out, he has come close, reaching foul trouble in half of the previous 12 games.
Sometimes, that boils over, and when it does, it can leave a major impact on the game, like it did on Monday.
Huggins has played with plenty of emotional players, but after WVU’s second straight defeat, his tolerance was running thin on his leading scorer.
“Kenyon Martin was a fiery guy. Kenyon Martin didn’t do stupid things to get technicals and hurt his team, but he was a fiery guy. …I’ve had a lot of fiery guys, but I haven’t had any hurt their teammates. That’s not right,” he said.
Huggins spoke even more directly to play-by-play announcer Tony Caridi after the game, stating that Stevenson “will no longer be a Mountaineer” if it happens again.
It’s about more than just wins and losses for the Hall of Fame coach. A son of the Mountain State, he shares in the frustration of WVU fans after the slow start to conference play.
“You can’t hurt your team, and in a place like ours where we’re going to have 14,000-plus the next two games, people care. People drive hundreds of miles to come and see these guys play. They don’t come to see a guy screw the game up. They don’t come to watch guys miss free throws. They want to come and root for their team. They want to have something to be happy about. They want to be able to take their kids and have their kids grow up Mountaineers. I understand that. I was one of those kids.”Bob Huggins