The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

December 8, 2011

Mountaineers coach: Young team getting better every day

By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald

MORGANTOWN — The young West Virginia University men’s basketball team is improved as it goes on the road for another tough test tonight against undefeated Kansas State (5-0).

“Yeah, we’re getting better every day, game to game,” coach Bob Huggins said, “I see improvement in every area.

“We’re better offensively and we’re certainly rebounding the ball better. We’re getting better offensively, but in small steps.”

This will be West Virginia’s first-ever basketball appearance in the state of Kansas. But it’s something of a homecoming for Huggins.

He led Kansas State to a 23-12 record as the head coach there in 2006-07. It was the most victories by the Wildcats in 19 years.

Tip-off time in Wichita is 9 p.m. and the action will be televised by ESPN2.

Kansas State defeated West Virginia 49-44 in Morgantown on Dec. 12, 1949 in the two schools’ only previous meeting.

Huggins said, “The biggest key is we just need to make shots. When two (of the leading scorers) go 11 for 31, missing 20 shots (between them), we’re not going to win.”

That happened in last week’s 75-62 loss at nationally ranked Mississippi State. “I thought we should have won that game,” Huggins lamented.

The Mountaineers (4-2) are shooting 47.2 percent from the field, while limiting opponents to 41.0 percent.

But they’re making only 60.8 percent of their free throws compared to nearly 70 percent by foes.

However, WVU is averaging 40.7 rebounds per game to only 32.5 by opposing teams.

“We struggled at Mississippi State and really didn’t finish the game,” Huggins noted.

WVU has one of the toughest men’s basketball schedules in its history. It includes eight nationally ranked teams for a total of nine games.

Asked whether his overscheduling might help six freshmen come along quicker, Huggins admitted that was his hope. But he said, “I might want rethink that after this week.”

West Virginia returns home Saturday to battle Miami at the Coliseum.

Kevin Jones, 6-foot-8, 260-pound senior, leads WVU in both scoring (19.8) and rebounding (11.7). Other double-digit scorers are 6-foot-2 senior guard “Truck” Bryant (14.2 ppg), 5-foot-11 freshman Jabarie Hinds, and 6-foot-9 junior Deniz Kilicli (11.2).

Kansas State also has a balanced attack with four scorers averaging double figures.