By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen has Atlantic Coast Conference champion Clemson to worry about tonight in Miami. West Virginia women’s basketball coach Mike Carey has perennial NCAA champion Connecticut on the road to worry about tonight.
Meanwhile, Bob Huggins has his men’s basketball team playing at Rutgers, which is hardly considered a Big East power, yet he may be more worried than any of them.
Things, you see, just haven’t worked out right for his team, particularly in last Friday’s loss at Seton Hall.
And that one you can’t blame on the youth.
“Truck was 3 for 16. Deniz did not have one of his better games, and K.J. sprained his ankle. We didn’t get what we normally get out of those three,” Huggins said of three upperclassmen Truck Bryant, Deniz Kilicli and Keven Jones.
In fact, Huggins is getting tired of hearing about his team’s youth, noting that his team started working together as early as July and that once the Rutgers game is out of the way they will be halfway through the regular season.
“I would think the jelling should be over,” he said.
Oh, there have been some moments when things have gone quite well, including a win over Kansas State, a narrow two-point loss to Baylor and an opening Big East triumph over Villanova.
But then along comes Seton Hall, a game in which his team is without energy, without focus, and that leads to being without offense and without defense.
“We didn’t have energy for whatever reason,” Huggins said.
Huggins’ teams may not always win, but you can normally count on them playing hard, not hardly playing.
Huggins believes what’s wrong is fixable, having seen this team play the way it should. He knows that Bryant can shoot, having seen him hit for 34 against Villanova, and he knows that when healthy, Jones is among the best players in the Big East.
But against Seton Hall he was playing on one leg, unable to jump or move well, something that Huggins says now has healed.
As for Kilicli, when asked whether he had lived up to his potential, Huggins’ answer was diplomatic: “He’s worlds better than he was.”
That, however, was as far as he would go, other than saying “sometimes potential can be a great burden.”
Rutgers is 8-6 and has a quality win over No. 10 Florida in double overtime, but a very difficult two-point loss to South Florida on its resume. It is a program that is improving rapidly under former Pitt assistant Mike Rice, but one WVU beats regularly, owning a 16-7 record against the Scarlet Knights in Big East play.
Freshman guard Eli Carter has become the Rutgers’ go-to guy, averaging 13.1 points a game, while Jones continues to power the Mountaineers (10-4, 1-1) with a 20.0 points-per-game scoring average to go with an average of 11.4 rebounds a game.