MORGANTOWN — Two games, two victories into the 2021-22 basketball season you’d think West Virginia basketball coach Bob Huggins would be gushing over with happiness as his Mountaineers head into the Shriner’s Childrens Charleston Classic in South Carolina, a three-games-in-four-days early season tournament.
But, it has been proven over and over that Bob Huggins isn’t really happy unless he’s unhappy and as he prepared for Thursday’s 9 p.m. meeting with Elon he has more to tinker with on his team than a mechanic working on a 1996 Dodge Dart with 280,000 miles on it.
Don’t get this wrong now, Huggins is happy with two wins in two games and, when you ask him what he wants to get out of this tournament that also includes Ole Miss and Marquette, the winner of which he plays on Friday and then whomever comes out of the bracket that includes St. Bonaventure, just off a victory over Michigan; longtime former rival Temple, Boise State or Clemson, he answers:
“We win it. That’s first and foremost.”
He’s also almost giddy about the idea of playing three games in four days.
“We need to play games,” he said. “We have freshmen who will be playing. We have so many new guys who need to play. It’s one thing to do things in practice and another thing to put people in the stands and play a game.”
So, Huggins says bring it on even if takes up practice time, time needed to fix the things he sees wrong with his team.
And rest assured he sees more wrong with his team than most 0-2 teams.
Things like what?
How about rebounding?
Against Pitt they were outrebounded by 16, collecting only 20. Against Oakland they were outrebounded by 15, 48-33.
Huggins knew he wouldn’t rebound like his teams had in the past but what has transpired so far isn’t acceptable to him.
“We’ve got to block people out,” he said. “You’ve got to stay inside of them. We spent a good amount of time this week working on it. We have been watching the flight of the ball when the shot goes up letting the other team get position on us.”
Then there’s defense.
True, they forced 32 turnovers from Pitt and admits “Our ball pressure has been exceptional.”
But ... and you knew that was coming.
“Pitt shot 58% percent from the field against us,” Huggins said. “I can’t remember anyone shooting 58% against us. That’s bad defense.”
It was bad defense because the shots Pitt did get were up close.
Then Huggins understands that there has been something of a mirage from the play of his two leaders — Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil.
McNeil has had a rough go of it in both games.
“The biggest adjustment is because he’s playing against really good athletes and they are now giving him a lot of attention,” Huggins said.
A year ago, they had Sherman and Miles McBride to worry about and a force underneath in Derek Culver, which meant less defensive pressure for McNeil.
“Now they don’t get off him at all, so he has to do a better job of using screens,” Huggins said. “He knows that. Taz and him have carried us but they are capable of so much more.”
And Huggins wants nothing but the best from his players.
Right now he is getting it from his point guards and from Jalen Bridges, who had a big second half against Pitt and finished as high scorer after Huggins urged him to either take his shot when it was open or take a seat.
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