Can Huggins, WVU Keep Intensity Lit?
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The fire has been lit.
Now the question is can Bob Huggins keep throwing logs on that fire?
Make no doubt that West Virginia found some inspiration, reached back to the attitude with which it had played in previous years and overcame itself in beating Pitt in the Backyard Brawl, 69-59, on Saturday.
That came after, quite truthfully, the team had played with little emotion and little swagger as it sleepwalked through the season’s first eight games with an undistinguished 5-3 record.
But now they feel like they are back to being “Bobby’s Bullies”.
“I think that kind of regrouped us,” said guard Chase Harler. “It’s always good to win.”
What made it such a turning point was that the spark was lit by the one person that had to light it, the team leader, Sagaba Konate.
Ever since Jevon Carter left, WVU had been searching for someone to assume that role. Huggins can light sparks in practice, but once the game comes around it has to come from within the team and you can’t really be intimidating unless your most intimidating player intimidates.
Konate did that, ignoring his knee problems as he blocked seven shots to break D’Or Fischer’s career school record of 190 blocks.
“He had a great game, played to his strength. He got the record. We need to continue what he does, that’s getting the ball to the rim down low, occasionally hit the open three and block shots and rebound,” Harler said.
“We have to play like this or the rest of the season. Huggs is not going to accept anything less. We have to keep that same intensity up,” added senior Esa Ahmad.
All of this, of course, begins with the defense and for the first time this year WVU turned up the defensive pressure.
“Before the game Coach Huggs said, ‘I think we can go get them.’ We revved ourselves up and played with a lot of energy,'” said guard Beetle Bolden.
“It was out of desperation,” Huggins admitted. “We were horrible defensively in New York. I told them, we ought to go back to what we do. We ought to go back to doing what bothers people.
“Everybody was concerned about the pressure. If they said they weren’t, they were lying.”
Now, if Huggins can just get the Mountaineers to take care of the basketball, after having had 26 turnovers against Pitt, they may be able to put it together and make a run into the new year.
“We can win the dogfight, but we can play a better game than this,” Harler said. “We have to keep the turnovers under 10.”
“We need to put some other things in, quite frankly,” Huggins admitted. “We need half court offense to be more crisp and move smoothly.”