The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

January 26, 2011

WVU at Louisville tonight

LOUISVILLE — Bob Huggins has won 685 basketball games as a coach.

He has appeared in two Final Fours.

He has had six players selected in the first round of the NBA draft.

Now we’ll find out what kind of coach he is.

Huggins will be facing one of the great challenges of his 29-year career as he takes a West Virginia University team decimated by injury, defection and suspension on the road to face a 15-4 Louisville team tonight that averages 80 points a game and 17-3 Cincinnati team on Saturday that gives up 56.5 a game.

He goes on the road with just eight scholarship players and without his leading scorer, guard Casey Mitchell, whom he suspended on Tuesday for violation of unspecified team rules. That came on the heels of freshman forward Kevin Noreen undergoing season-ending knee surgery and backup center Danny Jennings walking out on his team at halftime of the South Florida game.

It is a tough situation for games and for practices. On Monday, Huggins had to recruit assistant coach Erik Martin to play in the post, noting that “he ran out of air frequently, more than a couple of years ago.”

He also plans to bring walk-on Craig Carey on the road for a body during walk-throughs and, just in case he runs into a game officiated like the recent Marshall game where the only person in the arena who didn’t have two fouls on him was the man catering the press room.

Huggins, however, is optimistic that he can pull it off and avoid foul difficulties.

“I think we’re past the point where we have to play man-to-man where they can single one guy out,” Huggins said. “We play five or six defenses now and we’ll be able to keep guys in a game.”

As for not having numbers, Huggins just shrugs and says, “I told them you coach the guys you have. I feel pretty good we’ll come out and do the right things. We’ll run offense, we’ll defend and attempt to rebound the ball.”

Scoring would seem to be a challenge without Mitchell, who was averaging 16.8 points a game and coming off a game in which he grabbed off 14 rebounds, seven on the offensive boards, but Huggins doesn’t seem too concerned.

“No offense to Casey, but we beat Purdue pretty good and he scored six points,” Huggins said.

How might Huggins cover up the loss of Mitchell?

One would look for him to increase the offensive load on center Deniz Kilicli, who has come on lately and been scoring more, while also asking John Flowers to take more of an offensive load. One of the league’s best defenders and shot blockers, Flowers has suddenly turned into an offensive threat and if featured is capable of scoring 20 or more points in any game.

Forward Kevin Jones has been mostly a steady player who would get 13 to 20 points and seven or eight offensive rebounds, but Huggins may have to run some extra offense through Jones.

Huggins understands it won’t be easy and the rotations that he has used to build a 13-5 record no longer can explored as he will have to used his two point guards, Truck Bryant and Joe Mazzulla, more than he had in the past.

But the truth is that he foresaw situations where he would need both on the floor and has played them together in the past and it has worked out fine.

“I’ll have to hand out minutes judiciously so guys stay fresh,” Huggins said. “That’s a lot harder when you have Joe and Truck together.”

As it is, Huggins will be playing everyone he has on hand and, when you look at it, it isn’t really a bad group. Most of them played last year in the Final Four.

“I don’t know why we can’t win,” Huggins said. “I don’t mean anything to Louisville or Cincinnati, but we can win.”

E-mail Bob Hertzel  at bhertzel@hotmail.com,

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