West Virginia, once 5-2 in the Big East, fell to 6-6 in the league after losing its fourth game in five outings on Wednesday, a 55-51 setback to Notre Dame.
It was a difficult loss for the Mountaineers to swallow, one where they again played a dreadful first half before making a desperate run in the second half. They grabbed a late lead and looked to be in position to at least compete down the stretch.
It wasn’t to be, as a trio of Fighting Irish 3-pointers buried WVU under the weight of a lightning-quick 11-0 run.
“Notre Dame made big shots,” Huggins said Thursday, part of the Big East coaches teleconference. “Three consecutive possessions, three consecutive 3s. We just didn’t have enough time to come back.”
It was another in a series of close games for the Mountaineers (16-9). All but one of their last six games has been decided by six points or less, including two games that went to overtime.
Those nail-biters have been the norm in West Virginia’s series with Saturday’s opponent, Louisville. The programs’ last four meetings have been decided by an average of 2.25 points, with the largest margin of victory a mere three.
So could this year’s WVU team’s experience in close games help against the Cardinals?
“I always try to push the right buttons. I don’t know that we’re successful all the time,” Huggins said. “We’ve had five overtime games, one double overtime game. We’ve been in a lot of close games. That’s the nature of our team. We have a hard time getting away from anybody.”
But Louisville (19-5, 7-4) has had little problem pulling away from opponents lately. It will come to the Coliseum having win its last five games, with the closest decision a 60-51 win at Seton Hall on Jan. 28.
“They’re good,” Huggins said. “Typical of Rick’s teams, they get better this time of year. They’re very versatile defensively. They can press you. They can play that 2-3 zone. They’re very capable of playing man. They’re going to put you in a lot of odd-numbered situations because of how well they play the pick and roll.”
Huggins was asked his thoughts on the Big East’s addition of Memphis, which will join that league as an all-sports member in 2013. When Huggins coached at Cincinnati, he regularly faced the Tigers in Conference USA play.
How might Memphis fare in Big East basketball?
“That’s hard to answer, because the truth is a third of the Big East was in Conference USA when I was in Conference USA,” Huggins noted. “Rick was at Louisville, Cal [John Calipari] was at Memphis, DePaul had Quentin Richardson. Marquette was good; Tommy [Crean] was doing a great job at Marquette. So I don’t know.”
“They’ve got a heck of a basketball program,” he continued. “Cal did a great job getting it going, and Josh [Pastner] has kept it going. They’ve got a great, great fan base. I mean, their fan base is absolutely terrific. They travel. You’ll see them everywhere in the league. So yeah, I think they are [a good addition].”