Speaking on Monday morning’s Big 12 coaches teleconference, Huggins indicated the Mountaineers will be a bit more conservative in the way they structure that nonconference slate. Particularly, one-off games that come in the middle of conference play -- like the team’s Jan. 19 game at Purdue this season -- may become a thing of the past.
“As I’ve said a lot of times, I think one of the biggest questions and concerns people had when I came back here was if we were going to play a better nonconference schedule,” Huggins said. “I think we’ve tried to do that. We’ve tried to bring attractive nonconference teams in.
“I think what we need to do is probably keep those games out of the conference schedule, with all the travel and everything. It would have been nice to have the rest of the week off when we went to Purdue. It would have been nice to have a week off, get healed up and try to fix some things. I don’t think we’re going to travel the way we have traveled during the nonconference season.”
Huggins indicated the status of guard Matt Humphrey, who has been dealing with a shoulder injury and has not played since a Jan. 23 win over TCU, is still in doubt heading into tonight’s game against Texas.
“I don’t know. It’s kind of been day-to-day,” Huggins said. “We thought he’d be back by now, but he still has swelling and inflammation in the shoulder.”
A senior transfer from Boston College, Humphrey has appeared in 11 games and averages 4.6 points and 2.0 rebounds per outing.
Huggins was hesitant to answer questions about the mentality of individual players following last week’s loss against Kansas, but spent considerable time on Monday morning discussing the psychological state of some individual players and this WVU team as a whole.
Asked what had led to his team’s improved play of late, the head coach said, “I think what our guys have learned is to take it one game at a time. I know that sounds cliche, but honestly, earlier in the year, they were talking about playing somebody else rather than the team we were playing. Obviously we didn’t play with the intensity we need to be able to play with to be able to compete.”
He continued with the discussion of mentality later, after being asked a question about guard Juwan Staten’s professed ability to make 3-point shots in practice (he has yet to do so in a game this season).
“He does shoot them in practice,” Huggins claimed. “I don’t know. I think when things don’t go the way everybody hoped they’d go, guys get more tentative. It can go one of two ways. You get a little more tentative or you try to do too many things.
“Sometimes, Wanny maybe doesn’t do enough. The flipside is, maybe Jabarie [Hinds] at times tries to do too much. Guys just have got to play within themselves and do the things they’re good at doing. I think when they do that, we’re a much better team. When guys try to get out of their element in one way or another, that’s when you struggle.”
One player who has had little problem finding that balance of late has been freshman Eron Harris, who has scored in double figures in five of West Virginia’s last six games -- including 17 points or more in three of WVU’s last four outings.
“I think the biggest thing is he kind of knows what he’s doing,” Huggins said of Harris. “He’s guarding. He actually wants to guard the best perimeter guy. He’s helping us rebound the ball, and obviously he’s making shots -- which we need somebody to make.
“You start out with those [freshman] guys, because they just don’t know enough, and I think the great thing about Eron is he really wants to learn. He really wants to be a good player. He’s very attentive. He’s one of those guys that you tell him to go do something, and he does it. He doesn’t make the same mistake twice.”