Huggins Flips The Question For WVU Hoops
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — This may be hard to decipher at first read, but West Virginia’s current basketball is as close to being good as it is to being bad, despite what your eyes have told you through an 8-5 start that included a conference-opening loss at home to No. 11 Texas Tech.
How often do you see an unranked team nearly upset a ranked team when its starting lineup scores only 11 points and when it misses 14 free throws?
What’s more, WVU put that scare into Texas Tech with Sagaba Konate, who represents what this Mountaineer team is supposed to be all about its best, still on crutches.
Guaranteed it’s not very often you see that, but that’s how close WVU came in its Big 12 opener and it’s what Texas has to keep in mind Saturday when WVU plays there in its first conference road game Saturday at 9:00 p.m. on ESPN2.
What will it take to get WVU to the point that it can win such games short of getting Konate back, which is purely out of its hands?
Huggins thinks he knows.
They have to come to hate losing.
“Our backs are against the wall,” Huggins admitted. “We have put ourselves in a situation where our backs are against the wall.”
It’s one thing to have your back there, another to simply throw your hands up and surrender.
“Historically here when our backs were against the wall we came out fighting like hell,” Huggins said. “I mean we came out com-PET-i-tive.”
That sent his mind spinning back in time when the last time his team’s back was really against the wall.
“ I’m sitting there in the locker room and I’m thinking back to Missouri in Orlando last year when we were dead in the water. I mean we were dead in the water,” he said.
How dead? They were down by 16 points to Missouri with eight minutes to go.
“I remember, coming in the huddle and JC and Dax are screaming at those guys. ‘We ain’t dead yet!’ And that’s one of the greatest comebacks I’ve ever seen.”
Why were they able to come back and win that game and that tournament?
“Why?” said Huggins. “People say, well, they want to win. But everybody wants to win.”
Indeed they do. What don’t they want?
“The question is ‘Do they really HATE TO LOSE? Despise losing?” Huggins said. “Doesn’t look like it (with this year’s team).”
The problem is that the other guy probably hates to lose, too, and this is Texas’ home conference opener after a very convincing 67-47 win at Kansas State, which was playing without preseason Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year Dean Wade, out with a foot injury.
Six-foot-eleven freshman Jaxson Hayes, who had made 18 straight shots to end last year, finished with nine points and 11 rebounds. Hayes tipped loose balls to teammates and had two sensational blocks.
And Shaka Smart decided to bring starter Jase Febres off the bench and he responded with seven 3-point shots and 23 points.
“Texas has as much talent as anyone in the conference including Kansas,” Huggins said. “I promise you, if you look you will see next to Kansas they have the most draft picks, most lottery picks, most first-round picks.”
He used as an example Jericho Sims.
“Remember the dunk he had last year over Sags?” Huggins said. “That’s hard to do and he’s their third center now.”