Huggins And The Mountaineers Do It Their Way
A few moments of angst was followed by plenty pleasure for West Virginia’s basketball coach Bob Huggins.
After falling behind 16-8 six minutes into the NCAA Tournament’s second round clash with Marshall, WVU appeared to have reason to worry. But the Mountaineers quickly responded with a 26-4 spurt that put away any West Virginia fears of a Herd upset. Marshall, the 13th seed that advanced to the second round by virtue of a shocker over fourth-seeded Wichita State in the NCAA opener, never got inside 10 again. And it spent the second half looking up from a hole that grew as large as 30 points. Eventually WVU walked away with a 94-71 victory
While the brother-on-brother battle of West Virginia’s only two Division I basketball program drew plenty of attention prior to the game, once the contest tipped off, the Mountaineers did what they normally do. They harassed Marshall into 18 turnovers, limited the Herd to its third lowest scoring output of the season and let senior guard Jevon Carter do his thing. Carter had 28 points, five assists and five steals to assure WVU a spot in the Sweet 16 for the third time in his four seasons as a Mountaineer.
“That’s typical for him,” said Huggins of Carter’s performance, which included making 5-of-7 three-pointers. “That’s why he was the National Defensive Player of the Year a year ago and probably will be this year. He shattered our steals both in the season and career. He’s had a phenomenal career. I don’t know if he’ll break the assist record, but he will be close if he doesn’t break it. You have to understand how hard he works to appreciate Jevon Carter. He’s the hardest working guy I think I’ve ever had. It’s nothing for him to go shoot an hour and a half before the game.”
Carter offense was on display Sunday, but his normally dogged defense was a huge factor as well. With some help from his friends, he held Marshall’s leading scorer Jon Elmore to three points in the first half and 15 for the game, which was seven below his average. The Herd junior also committed eight turnovers.
West Virginia controlled the glass, as well, winning the rebounding battle by a 40 to 24 count.
“We thought that was our advantage coming in,” said Huggins of his team’s rebounding. “We didn’t want to get in a game playing the way they want to play. They’re better playing the way they want to play than we are. We’re better when we get a lot more possessions. We were up 13, 14 or something like that at halftime (actually it was 17). We had only shot 39 percent, but we were ahead because we had so many possessions off the offensive glass and turnovers.”
The victory sends West Virginia on to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in Bob Huggins’ 11 seasons as the Mountaineers’ head coach. Waiting for WVU in the East Regional semifinals next Friday night in Boston will be old Big East foe Villanova.
Jay Wright and his Wildcats have been No. 1 in the country for a long stretch this season and are the No. 1 seed in the East Region with a 32-4 record.
“I’ve got great respect for Jay and what he does,” said Huggins, who holds a 3-3 all-time record against Nova. “We had great battles in the Big East. We spend so much time looking at film of who we’re going to play that we really don’t watch a lot of basketball from other leagues and things. I’ve seen bits and pieces (of Villanova) and some highlights on ESPN. But I don’t know very much about them.”
Not yet, that is. But Huggins and the Mountaineers will certainly refamiliarize themselves with the Wildcats very soon.