The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

November 11, 2011

Huggins, WVU set to open season against Oral Roberts

MORGANTOWN — Bob Huggins says his West Virginia University basketball team will be different with forward Deniz Kilicli on the floor when it opens its 2011-12 season against Oral Roberts at 9 p.m. today as the second game of a doubleheader at the Coliseum.

It better be.

The freshman-dominated team he put on the floor in the only exhibition of the season lost to Division II Northern Kentucky, Kilicli missing the game after bruising his knee in practice.

That did give Kilicli a chance to sit back and look the new players from a distance.

Let’s just say he didn’t like what he saw.

“I wasn’t happy. I’m still not happy,” he said. “I thought (the freshmen) would be better.”

The truth is that the freshmen may prove to be better, but if they play anywhere near where they played in the exhibition WVU will be in for a very long evening, and Kilicli knows it.

Asked if he was confident going into this game against an Oral Roberts team, a team that was 19-16 last year and that Huggins says has its top eight scorers back and could be this year’s Oakland, a team that gave WVU fits, Kilicli answered bluntly:

“How are you going to be confident when you lose to a Division II team?”

Point well taken.

Still, Huggins maintains he likes his freshmen.

“I just don’t like them enough to lose with them,” he said.

After a week of intense practice, the hopes are that the freshmen made strides.

“Hopefully, there will be a big change tomorrow night,” said senior guard Truck Bryant.

One reason that may come about is that Huggins put the dreaded treadmill into overdrive this week.

“I’ve always said fear is a great motivator,” he said. “That’s not fun being on there.”

Huggins will go with three veterans – Kilicli, Bryant and the team’s leader, Kevin Jones. From there Huggins said he would not know whom he would start until after Thursday’s practice.

Chances are it will be Keaton Miles, a freshman out of Dallas, and Jabarie Hinds, the highly regarded freshman out of Mount Vernon, N.Y.

The alternative would be Kevin Noreen, a veteran of all of seven games before a knee injury sidelined him last year, in place of Miles, and Gary Browne, another top freshman point guard out of Puerto Rico.

The first game of the doubleheader has Mike Carey’s women’s team hosting Youngstown State.

“This is going to be a little bit different. This is the first year we’ve had so many newcomers for a while,” Carey said. Playing in an exhibition and playing in a scrimmage doesn’t count, but now this counts on your record. So you’re always a little nervous.”

The exhibition was little more than a warmup, winning by more than 80 points.

Youngstown State was 4-14 in the Horizon League last year.

Carey has similar problems to Huggins with an inexperienced team.

The starting five will be comprised of sophomores Brooke Hampton and Taylor Palmer at guard, junior Asya Bussie at center, and junior Ayana Dunning and sophomore Jess Harlee at forward.

“We’re going to go with Dunning and Bussie in the post along with our guards,” Carey said. “Offensively, they are veterans and we’re a lot stronger offensively in the halfcourt set with that group in there. We’ll go smaller sometimes, and we may be forced to go smaller a little bit more than we want to in the Youngstown State game.”

Email Bob Hertzel at Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

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