MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — West Virginia men’s basketball is making progress, but Bob Huggins still sees plenty of room for improvement for his team.
The Mountaineers hosted the Naval Academy on the 81st anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks, an important day in the Mountain State. 2,335 Americans lost their lives in the attack, many of whom were West Virginians, and four battleships, including the USS West Virginia, were among the six ships sunk on Dec. 7, 1941.
“It was a great day to have Navy in here,” he said. “On a day like this when so many West Virginians lost their lives in Pearl Harbor, I think it’s great to get Navy in here so that we can give a lot of gratitude to the people who really gave their lives for us. I wish we could have brought them all in. That would have been terrific. [It is] kind of impossible, though.”
Once the ball was tipped, though, all of WVU’s focus zeroed in on getting its 85-64 win over the Midshipmen. Here is what the Hall of Famer thought about his team’s play.
On attacking Navy’s 2-3 zone…
Navy presented a unique look compared to the rest of WVU’s schedule, as they defended the Mountaineers with a 2-3 zone. WVU fared generally well against it, knocking down 55.2 percent of their shots, including 11 three-pointers.
Huggins, however, felt his team’s execution could have been better.
“Everything we were supposed to run we didn’t run. I guess [our players] knew that in the back of their heads,” Huggins said. “They said, ‘Why run the stuff we’re going to run whenever we play somebody else?'”
There have been some definite growing pains in the first month of the season as the team attempts to assimilate several players from a plethora of different styles. That, he says, will likely come with time.
“I think part of it is that we haven’t played a whole lot together yet,” Huggins said. “We have guys from all over the place, so you’ve got guys who have been taught different things than what we’re trying to teach them.”
On figuring out different lineups…
While the team itself is chock full of new faces, Huggins has been testing some different combinations on the floor as his team inches closer to conference play. His biggest obstacle right now is finding minutes for guys that need them.
“[I’m] just trying to get some guys some playing time,” he said. “We’ve got guys there that deserve more time.”
That group includes some of WVU’s younger players, like sophomore guards Kobe Johnson and Seth Wilson, each of whom played about 13 minutes on Wednesday. True freshman Josiah “Jojo” Harris has emerged as a player in the rotation as well, as he entered the game early in the first half and played 11 minutes.
“Jojo is getting so much better,” Huggins said. “For a freshman, he gets a lot done. For anybody, he gets a lot done.”
Harris finished with seven points and three rebounds against Navy.
On finishing games in the second half…
Navy nearly came back to steal the lead after it carried some late first-half momentum into a second-half run. It took the Midshipmen just a few minutes to get within two possessions of the Mountaineers. (WVU quickly took back control and rode out a 20-plus point lead at the final buzzer.)
That marks the second straight slip-up by the Mountaineers after halftime. WVU had a similar collapse in Cincinnati against Xavier, only that time, they were unable to reclaim dominance.
Again, Huggins points to his team’s growing chemistry as a possible culprit.
“They do it for a while, for as long as you’re standing on top of them, but then you get away from them, and they go back to whatever it is they’re more comfortable. I think, without a question, that’s part of it,” Huggins said. “They need to play together. Erik [Stevenson] is from South Carolina. Joe [Toussaint] comes from Iowa. You’ve been around it long enough to know that everybody plays different.”