Huggins Works Reserves During Exhibition Game
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After taking a week off from game action, West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins and his team returned to Morgantown and defeated the Wheeling Jesuit Cardinals in an exhibition contest, 98-50, Saturday afternoon.
Every Mountaineer available played in the game, including players not in the traditional rotation, such as forwards D’Angelo Hunter and Logan Routt, who played 23 minutes and 19 minutes respectively.
“We wanted to get a look at (Hunter).” Huggins said. “I didn’t say a word to (Jevon Carter) and Dax (Miles), and they come out and J.C. doesn’t take a shot and Dax takes six. They’re smart enough to know we need those people in backup roles, so we got to figure out who’s going to do what and when.”
West Virginia’s press forced 16 turnovers, but WVU offense turned the ball over 14 times, showing stretches of hard work on the defensive end but recklessness on the other.
“We turned it over too much.” Huggins said. “We worked like crazy to create turnovers, and we gave it back to them 14 times.”
Despite playing a Division II team in an exhibition game, Huggins believes that a contest against anybody is better for the development of this year’s team as opposed to constantly practicing in the long gap between WVU’s Dec. 9 game against Pitt and its next regular season contest on Dec. 20 vs. Coppin State.
“Have you ever been locked in a room with 14 other guys and you’re just smacking each other for seven or eight days?” Huggins said. “You play against the same guy every day, and the same guy fouls you every day. You know what he’s going to do, and he knows what you’re going to do. We didn’t need to go that long at this point in time without being able to lagainst someone else.”
Huggins praised the positive play of forward Wesley Harris, who played 17 minutes and scored 16 points of 7-of-9 shooting from the field and 2-3 from deep while also grabbing nine rebounds. His 6-foot-8 inch height makes him a force when rebounding, and his ability to stretch the floor has helped make him a valuable starter for West Virginia.
“I knew we needed athleticism and I knew we needed length, and he had both of those things.” Huggins said. “He’s been, I don’t want to say a surprise, but he’s really been good to coach. He wants to be a good player, he listens, he asks intelligent questions. We really need his length, and he’s our best rebounder right now. He gets more hard rebounds than anybody does.”
Despite being 10 regular season games and two exhibition games into the season, Huggins realizes there are still question marks on who the 2017-18 West Virginia team is. Forward Esa Ahmad is due to return from his suspension after six more games, and freshman guard Brandon Knapper’s recovery from a knee injury could eventually get him on the floor before the current season is over.
“We’re gonna change when we get Esa back,” stated Huggins. “I don’t know how close Brandon is to coming back. We could use another ball handler. I think we know what we get from Esa, but I don’t have any idea what we get from Brandon, if anything. There’s a little bit of uncertainty out there.
“It doesn’t matter who you play,” added WVU’s head coach. “If you’re not in the right place, it shows up, and we weren’t in the right place a good bit.”
West Virginia plays two more non-conference games at home – Dec. 20 against Coppin State and Dec. 23 against Fordham – before opening Big 12 action at Oklahoma State on Dec. 29.