Spanish Steps: Huggins Recaps WVU Hoops Trip
While West Virginia’s men’s basketball team might not have gotten quite the opposition it hoped for on its trip to Spain, head coach Bob Huggins was still mostly pleased with his team’s play in the three contests it had on its quadrennial overseas trip. Singling out several players, Huggins still believed his 2019-20 team got a lot out of the games.
“Logan (Routt) played really well,” said Huggins as he began his rundown. “He played hard and really ran the floor. (Strength and conditioning coach) Shaun Brown has done a great job with him. Logan hasn’t lost weight per se, but he has more muscle mass. He’s running great and we haven’t run a lot. We were really pleased with him, and with Derek (Culver) running the floor better. He is active and long and able to guard out of his area.”
The praise continued with Deuce McBride, who looked like anything but a true freshman in his first three games in a Mountaineer uniform.
“With Deuce, I was happy with pretty much everything. His ball security was really good. He defended – he may have been our best perimeter defender. He shot the ball well. He rebounded it. He’s physical enough to guard somebody bigger than him but can guard smaller guys. He had a great trip.”
While McBride got appreciable time at the point over the week, Huggins said that might not even be his best position, noting that he can also play the two and three spots. However, his versatility makes the Mountaineers more flexible in the backcourt, allowing them to play three guards in many situations. McBride’s emergence also allows Jermaine Haley to play the four at times.
Huggins was also pleased with West Virginia’s shooting on the trip. The Mountaineers hit 50.6 percent over the three games.
“We have guys who can make shots. Chase (Harler) ws pretty consistent. and Sean (McNeil) and Taz (Sherman) shot it consistently. Jordan (McCabe) made shots the last couple of games. It would be a rarity if all those guys missed on the same day,” Huggins said.
On the flip side, WVU did get a number of lay-ups and transition hoops, while Culver and Routt got clear views at the rim over mostly shorter defenders. That, coupled with competition that was somewhat less than hoped for, definitely contributed to West Virginia’s big numbers.
“When you go over this time of year not sure what you are going to get,” Huggins explained of the rosters that his team faced. “Generally speaking the American pros don’t go over that soon, and some of their better players take some time off. The last game I thought those guys were really competitive, but it was just hard for them to match up with us.”
Huggins was not as happy with his team’s defense, noting that its ability to guard in space and cut down the floor against opposing dribblers was iffy. Again, though, there was a countering positive.
“With how hard we play, it was totally different watching this group,” Huggins said of another big takeaway that should carry over to the season. “Their togetherness and having the ability to rely on each other [was important]. They played really hard, and it wasn’t easy.”
The reason for the difficulty wasn’t so much the opposition as the heat in the gyms, especially the last one in which WVU faced the Barcelona All-Stars.
“Those gyms were hot,” Huggins shared. “We had to keep taking Jermaine and Emmitt (Matthews) out and alternating them because it was so hot. You can’t imagine how hot that last gym was. When we went in another gym for shootaround that morning and it was cool. Going into that last one was like a blast furnace.”
DRIBBLES AND SWISHES
Perhaps the heat contributed to the tempers which flared in the final contest against Barcelona.
“It got a little bit chippy,” Huggins understated of a game that featured several verbal confrontations, some finger-pointing, Huggins confrontations with officials and a technical foul on the Mountaineer bench.
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Huggins noted that WVU tried up until “the day of or the day before” to clear Oscar Tshiebwe’s visa issues which kept him from taking the trip. He said he did not anticipate it being a problem for West Virginia’s visit to Mexico over Thanksgiving weekend.
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The Mountaineers are now taking a break, and will not reconvene until the day before the fall semester begins on August 21. Most of the team went home in the interim.
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Might Huggins need to be concerned that his team will get raided by Neal Brown’s squad, which is still searching for a starting quarterback? Asked for a couple of team highlights off the court, Huggins went with beach time, which included watercraft rides and a football game.
“In Barcelona they went to the beach and had a big football game. We have two quarterbacks on the roster, Logan and Deuce, who were both quarterbacks in high school.”