Huggins Doesn’t Want The Buzz To Be A Distraction
For the first time in memory, West Virginia University didn’t make any single-game tickets available for this contest, as all the seats for the Wildcats’ visit were gobbled up either through season tickets or a mini-season ticket package.
Because of the sellout, the secondary ticket market has been hot. It is currently costing at least $150 for ticket to one of the upper sections and over $400 for the lower concourse.
There is a great deal of media interest as well. With ESPN GameDay televising from the Coliseum starting at 11 a.m., on Saturday, and then the game broadcast itself at 7 p.m., ESPN has 104 employees on hand to handle all the work. Kentucky media itself is coming in large numbers, as 24 press credentials and 14 photo credentials have been requested by those who cover UK. By comparison, Kansas, which sends the largest media contingent to Morgantown from any of the Big 12 schools, usually has five or six press members and one photographer when the Jayhawks come to the Coliseum.
And on top of all those UK beat writers and photographers, Kentucky coach John Calipari is the subject to a new Facebook show, and that nine-person crew will also be at the Coliseum tomorrow.
Amidst all those outside distractions, there’s obviously a basketball game to be played. Though Saturday’s battle between the Mountaineers and Wildcats is a non-conference affair that is part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge, it is still important for both teams, who each have hit some tough times as of late. WVU, which was ranked No. 2 in the country just a few weeks ago, has lost three of its last four. And UK, which fell out of the rankings this week, the first time in nearly four years that has happened, has lost three of its last six.
For West Virginia, which is now 16-4 after a 15-1 start, the key to getting back on track isn’t really that complex.
“We’ve got to hit shots,” stated WVU head coach Bob Huggins. “Hitting shots and getting live ball turnovers are the key for us. When we do that, we’re pretty good. When we don’t, we’re not.”
As for the Wildcats, who are 15-5 overall and 5-3 in the SEC, their fall is also quite simply, said Huggins. The Wildcats are as talented as ever, but just very young, often featuring five freshmen on the floor at the same time.
“John does a great job of getting them organized. They run a lot of isos and do great things. They’re just very young.
“Kentucky is still very talented and John is an outstanding coach,” added Huggins. “When they do what John wants them to do, they’re really, really good. But young guys don’t always do what you want them to do.”
In the end, despite all the hype, Saturday is just a basketball game, albeit between two good teams who want to get their seasons back on track.
“Yes, there’s a buzz about this games, and our players know GameDay is going to be here and all that is happening,” noted Huggins. “But we typically do a good job of blocking out that type of stuff. There was buzz when Virginia came here and there was buzz when Oklahoma and Trae Young came here. But we blocked that out, focused on the game and we were fine. That’s what we need to do tomorrow.”