Bob Huggins said he wanted an emphasis on defense, and that is what he got.
His West Virginia Mountaineers slugged Georgia Southern 101-68 Thursday night, and they did it with defense. The final margin represented the most points scored by a West Virginia squad since Huggins’ first team back at his alma mater (2007-08) savaged Maryland Eastern Shore 110-44.
Juwan Staten led five Mountaineers in double figures in the first-round game of the Cancun Challenge.
The Mountaineers (3-1) play Presbyterian Saturday at home while Georgia Southern (2-2) travels to Old Dominion before heading to Cancun, Mexico.
Staten (20 points) connected on 7-of-11 field goals, 5-of-6 free throws, doled out 9 assists and hauled down 5 rebounds.
He got plenty of support from true freshman Devin Williams and reserve Terry Henderson — both of whom scored 16 points — Eron Harris (15) and Gary Browne (11), who played for the first time since the 87-82 loss at Virginia Tech on Nov. 12. Browne has been recovering from a bruised thigh.
The five in double figures was a West Virginia first since March 9, 2013 against Iowa State.
Tre Bussey of Georgia Southern led all scorers with 21 points. Teammate Jelani Hewitt also cracked double figures with 15.
West Virginia shot 56.3 percent for the game (40-of-71), while Georgia Southern was good on 25-of-64 shots (39.1 percent).
The Mountaineers rattled off the first 12 straight before the Eagles found the goal and then opened up a 43-13 score with 6:33 remaining in the half.
Supporting those initial dozen points for the Mountaineers were three blocks by true freshman forward Nathan Adrian and a steal from fellow starting forward Kevin Noreen.
Adrian had two blocks in the first three games; Noreen had recorded three steals.
“The coaches put a paper in our lockers that let us know that we were giving up the most points in the Big 12,” Staten said. “That’s something we all took pretty hard, so we wanted to come out at the beginning of the game and stop them from running anything. We wanted to jump out on them and get a huge lead at the beginning and just show people the type of defense we can play.”
When Browne dropped in a 3-point shot the Mountaineers held a 30-point lead, 43-13, with 6:33 remaining in the first half. The Mountaineers had outscored the Eagles, 31-13.
Coming into the game, Staten had played 119 of a possible 120 minutes. He had scored double figures in each contest, shooting 51.5 percent. He had one or fewer turnover in 9 of the last 10 games dating back to last year. He led the Big 12 in assists per game (7.3) and is third in the league in scoring (20 points per game).
“The great thing about Wani (Staten) to this point is he hasn’t changed,” Huggins said. “He came in with a terrific attitude. He still has a terrific attitude. His work ethic hasn’t changed. He’s really taken it upon himself to know what we want done, to know what the other team wants to do. The guys that I’ve had like that have been pretty good players.”
The Mountaineers are 37-1 at home under head coach Bob Huggins in non-conference games when shooting 50 percent or more in a game.
“It feels good to be on the positive side of breaking records this year,” Staten said. “Last year, we set a lot of records probably not in the right way, and it feels good to turn it around this year.”
WVU is 68-3 at home against non-conference teams in the last 11 years, including 49 of their last 50.
Huggins’ 726 all-time victories place him 17th on the all-time list. He needs three more to tie Norm Stewart and Jerry Tarkanian for 16th place in all-time victories.
GEORGIA SOUTHERN (2-2) Hewitt 5-17 4-8 15, Baynham 2-6 1-4 5, Bussey 8-17 1-1 21, Holmes 1-3 0-0 3, Matias 2-5 3-6 7, Thomas 0-0 1-2 1, Dunnican 1-1 0-0 2, Mike 1-1 0-0 2, Diamond 3-10 0-0 8, Doyle 2-4 0-3 4. Totals 25-64 10-24 68.
WEST VIRGINIA (3-1) Staten 7-11 5-6 20, Williams 7-12 2-7 16, Harris 6-11 2-2 15, Adrian 2-5 0-0 5, Noreen 2-5 0-0 4, Dibo 3-7 0-0 8, Connor 0-1 0-0 0, Browne 4-6 0-0 11, Henderson 6-8 2-2 16, Watkins 3-4 0-1 6, Hughes 0-1 0-0 0, Romeo 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 40-71 11-18 101.
Halftime—West Virginia 55-26. 3-Point Goals—Georgia Southern 8-31 (Bussey 4-10, Diamond 2-7, Holmes 1-2, Hewitt 1-10, Matias 0-1, Doyle 0-1), West Virginia 10-26 (Browne 3-5, Henderson 2-3, Dibo 2-6, Staten 1-2, Harris 1-4, Adrian 1-4, Hughes 0-1, Connor 0-1). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Georgia Southern 36 (Matias 11), West Virginia 46 (Williams 7). Assists—Georgia Southern 12 (Hewitt 5), West Virginia 24 (Staten 9). Total Fouls—Georgia Southern 17, West Virginia 19. A—4,814.