“We ran into a buzz-saw last night,” coach Bob Huggins said on Thursday’s Big East coaches teleconference -- the last time a West Virginia football or men’s basketball coach will ever appear on one of the league’s conference calls.
“When Notre Dame shoots it the way they shot it last night ... they’re just ...”
Huggins trailed off, not even needing to finish the thought. His team’s 71-44 defeat at the hands of the Fighting Irish -- WVU’s most lopsided loss since a 2005 setback at Villanova -- told the story.
It was a game when essentially nothing went right.
WVU’s defense allowed the hosts to shoot the best any Mountaineer opponent has managed since 2003. The offense fared no better, as West Virginia scored only 16 points in the second half. It managed only 16 in the first half of the first meeting between the two squads in Morgantown.
“They played extremely, extremely well, and we didn’t play so well,” Huggins said. “We had a hard time scoring in the second half. That’s two halves in the two games we’ve played them that we only scored 16 points. It’s hard to beat anybody when you score 16 points in a half.”
The Mountaineers, 17-11 overall and 7-8 in Big East play, have lost six of their last eight games and need wins to secure an NCAA Tournament at-large berth.
Friday night’s opposition, the Golden Eagles, may have something to say about that. Buzz Williams and company have won 11 of their last 12 -- the only setback in that stretch coming at Notre Dame.
“You’d like to have more than one day to prepare,” Huggins acknowledged. “Buzz has done a great job. They’re constantly in attack mode. You score a basket, look up at your mother to wave and they’re running by you. They’re extremely aggressive, and they’ve got a lot of interchangeable parts, and Buzz does a great job with those interchangeable parts.”
Huggins was asked his thoughts on the possibility that officials are “over-worked” and whether he pays attention to how many nights in a row a referee has worked coming into one of his games.
“I don’t even know who’s officiating a game until they walk out. I don’t really get concerned with that stuff,” he said. “I hear it all the time from people, obviously, but I don’t even look at who’s officiating the game. It keeps me in a better mood that way.”
With senior forward Kevin Jones about to play his final two home games as a Mountaineer (barring WVU hosting games in the NIT, if it misses the NCAA Tournament), Huggins was asked his thoughts about the star’s evolution as a player.
He repeated much of the praise he has given Jones all season long, but added one story that spoke to the Mount Vernon, N.Y., native’s nature.
“About the second or third week he was here, somebody was supposed to pick him up, and he was afraid they weren’t going to get him on time,” Huggins recalled. “So he ran from over at Lincoln Hall [a campus dormitory] to the weight room to get here on time.
“He walked in, he was was soaking wet. It’s summertime, so he’s soaking wet from running over there, out of breath. Andy said, ‘What’s wrong?’ He said, ‘I had to run over here. I didn’t want to be late.’ That’s been K.J. for four years.
“As great a player as he is -- and I think when it’s all said and done, when people look at what he’s done statistically and what he’s been a part of here, a huge part of here, he’s going to go down as one of the great players that’s ever played here -- but as good a player as he is, I think he’s that good a person off the court.”
If Huggins is worried his team will further wither after Wednesday’s loss to the Irish, he didn’t show it.
Asked how he would manage to keep the team together in the wake of the blowout, the head coach offered a simple response.
“I’m not going to give them any choice,” Huggins said. “We’ll be fine. We had a bad game, a bad half. We’ll be fine.”