By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
West Virginia plays one of those trap games that come along every so often in a college basketball season when Loyola of Maryland comes to the WVU Coliseum at 7 p.m. today.
The Mountaineers bring a 5-2 record into the game, which one would think would make them seem a standout over a mid-major, if that, but they come in off a trip to the Cancun Classic and off a loss to Wisconsin, a Top 10 team, in as hard-fought a game that they could have.
The combination of late-November sunshine and a difficult loss with a quick turnaround against a team you are supposed to beat is what makes this dangerous.
Loyola is a team that you can’t take lightly, bringing in a 4-1 record.
The four victories were all tight battles, two won in overtime against Cornell and UMBC, another by five points and another by seven.
The loss is the intriguing game, for Loyola played No. 13 UConn deep into the game before falling by 10 points as the Huskies hit their free throws down the stretch.
Loyola features a star player in Dylon Cormier, who averages 28.4 points and 7.4 rebounds a game, but WVU doesn’t seem to be bothered by that.
“I don’t know, we play against pretty good players. We team guard everybody,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said. “We’ll put somebody on him and let them accept the challenge. You look who we have coming down the road; if we can’t do that it’s going to be a long year.”
When you are looking at facing Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, among others, Huggins’ point is well taken.
Guard Eron Harris, who will probably draw the assignment guarding Cormier starting off, didn’t sound too impressed with the situation either.
“If he’s averaging 28, it means his team isn’t really that good,” Harris said. “Our coaches told us he takes a lot of bad shots. He’ll make some and he’ll miss some. It’s going to happen. We have to make sure his teammates don’t do much. Let’s get on the boards and be someone on the boards for a change.”
And when the UConn game is brought up, Harris simply shrugs that off.
“I’m not worrying about that,” Harris said. “Teams have good games and bad games. It’s on to the next.”
Huggins isn’t overly impressed either.
“They’re good, but you know what? We come out of that and we go to Missouri, we got Gonzaga and Marshall and Purdue. It doesn’t stop, so our approach is you have to guard good people every time out. You need to accept the challenge,” he said.
Besides, WVU has matters of its own to work on. The team is shooting just 64.2 percent from the free throw line.
“I would never imagine as well as we shoot the ball we couldn’t make free throws,” Huggins said.
The other thing WVU has to find a way to improve is its rebounding, for it will not be able to get through league play until it starts developing a toughness and personality on the boards. To date, against far inferior competition to what they will see in the Big 12, they are being outrebounded.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.