Not even West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins could hold back a grin as he watched his team storm the student section at the Coliseum Monday night following a 102-77 win over No. 11 Iowa State.
The 32-year head coach, as well as the 8,000 others in attendance, may have realized what has been done in Morgantown this season. Huggins is successfully taking a roster full of freshmen, sophomores and transfers and turning them into a team with tournament potential.
“They are good guys,” Huggins said. “They didn’t point fingers at each other. They didn’t get down. They came in everyday and came to work.”
The Mountaineers were in desperate need for a resume-building win as whispers of their postseason future began to intensify. WVU responded with the biggest victory in its young Big 12 life – and did it with an exclamation point.
Now sitting at 15-10 (7-5), West Virginia is peaking at the perfect moment. The team won five of its last seven contests, including two of the last three games against top-25 ranked teams. It’s been a long road back to prominence for Huggins and his team, but the road appears to draw nearer even though the 2013-14 season doesn’t appear to be winding down.
“That’s what this state is a whole bunch of people waking up every morning and go to work,” Huggins said. “Whether they’re not feeling well or whatever, they get up and go to work. That’s what these guys have done.”
Despite the big win Monday night, WVU continues to have the status of on the bubble. It will likely stay that way until March, assuming the team’s success continues, as well. Although other coaches may have backed away from discussing the possibility of a NCAA tournament bid this season, Huggins approached it directly.
Huggins said he often talks to his players about where the team sits in RPI rankings as well as West Virginia’s opponents’ rankings. Huggins said he believes it wouldn’t be right to withhold that information from the team, especially since the scenario of postseason life now seems very real.
Another part of the men’s basketball program that remains true is the passion Huggins brings to each game. Even with a 30-point lead and less than two minutes to play, Huggins was hot after Iowa State stole a ball in WVU’s backcourt against several second-stringers.
Huggins also said he was proud of his team’s toughness. Giving several examples, he said resilience and determination the young Mountaineers have displayed.
“We’ve got guys that are playing through a lot of stuff,” Huggins said. “We’ve had guys sick and guys banged up. They’ve showed up and
played. That’s more what I’m used to. That’s what we’ve always done and that’s why I love my guys so much.”
The Mountaineers will have another opportunity to knock off a third top-25 team this season Saturday when West Virginia travels to No. 19 Texas. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. inside Frank C. Erwin Jr. Special
Events Center in Austin, Texas.