Mountaineers’ Opening Victory Still Doesn’t Satisfy Huggins
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Last year West Virginia suffered an overtime loss to Buffalo in its season opener.
This year the Mountaineer men’s basketball team emerged from game one with a 94-84 victory over Akron. It was the 111th time in 121 home openers in school history that West Virginia has enjoyed a win, but WVU head coach Bob Huggins still wasn’t close to satisfied with his team’s performance.
“I thought we did some good things, and I thought we did some bad things,” said Huggins, who is in his 13th season at West Virginia’s head coach. “I’ve thought all along we can shoot the ball, and we can score the ball. But at times we go too fast; we go faster than we are capable of going. At times guys want to show everybody what they can’t do.”
One of the areas that upset West Virginia’s head coach the most was the fact that his team, with a distinct size advantage over the Zips, only led the rebounding margin 37-36.
Sophomore center Derek Culver finished with seven rebounds to go along with 16 points, while freshman forward Oscar Tshiebwe had five points and five rebounds. Sophomore forward Emmitt Matthews also grabbed seven rebounds to go along with 13 points.
Akron held a 14-5 advantage in second-chance points, as WVU was limited to nine offensive rebounds while the Zips had 10.
“We’re going to go through some growing pains; I think we all realize that,” said Huggins. “But we can’t just outrebound somebody by one and expect that we’re going to win many games. We have to dominate the glass, and we should, particularly when we have Derek and Oscar and Emmitt in. That a pretty big front line, a pretty athletic front line. They should rebound it.
“Derek was the best rebounder in the league a year ago, and he needs to be the best rebounder in the league again,” stated Huggins. “Oscar has made his reputation rebounding the ball, and he needs to continue rebounding the ball.”
Not only did Culver and Tshiebwe not rebound as well as Huggins wanted, but they also didn’t shoot it particularly well either. Culver made 4-of-15 shots from the floor, though he was 8-of-8 from the foul line. Tshiebwe was 2-of-6 in the field goal department, stepping outside a couple of times for perimeter attempts, though he missed both those 16-footers.
The thought of that brought out one of Huggins’ stories.
“My next-door-neighbor was 6-foot-3 and 215 or 220 pounds, big ol’ strong guy,” WVU’s coach remembered from his days playing for his father Charlie at Indian Valley South High School in Ohio. “We were scrimmaging before the season started, and he shot every ball. I looked over to my dad, like ‘What are we doing here?’ My dad never said a word to him. At the end of the quarter, we came over, and my dad said, ‘Bud, you know you shot every ball?’ He said, ‘Coach, I was open.’ My dad said, ‘There’s a reason. They want you to shoot. You suck. Here is what we’re going to do – Bud, you rebound, try to guard, and if you get the ball, throw it to Bob. If you do anything else, you’re never playing again.’
“I’m not quite at that point yet, but we need to not do what we can’t do.”