Mountaineers beginning to play with more effort
Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 00:01
Bob Huggins has coached college basketball in five different decades.
When thinking about any Huggins-coached team, you expect a hard-nosed squad that gives maximum effort.
To begin the 2012 season, though, the veteran head coach expressed his displeasure with the inconsistency of his team when it came to giving effort.
But, in a conference road win against Texas and a tough, one-point home loss to No. 18 Kansas State, the Mountaineers are starting to play with the amount of energy expected from Huggins.
Sophomore guard Jabarie Hinds credits the break from games around Christmas for the increased team energy.
"We got a lot better this whole (winter) break. We got a lot better and put a lot of time in. We were focused, and it led on to the court," Hinds said. "You’ve got to just play the game. You can’t worry about anything else. Just play hard."
The Mountaineers forced 14 turnovers against the Wildcats and Longhorns, respectively.
And it was apparent that even players coming off the bench gave just as much effort as the starters.
West Virginia’s bench players accounted for 56 percent of the team’s scoring against Texas and 40 percent of its
scoring against Kansas State.
The two games were also the first in quite some time in which Huggins’ team sustained the high level of play for nearly the entire game.
"It’s a matter of us just staying focused throughout the whole 40 minutes," said senior forward Dominique Rutledge. "If we play the whole 40 minutes, we can beat anybody in the country."
Team rebounding also improved for the Mountaineers in the last two outings.
After being out-rebounded by Oklahoma at home to begin conference play, West Virginia responded by out-rebounding Texas and losing the battle on the board to Kansas State by just one.
"The rebounds that I feel like we do miss has nothing to do with effort. I feel like the ball bounces off the rim a certain way," Rutledge said. "The effort is there. We are all boxing out. It just a matter of the way the ball bounces."
Huggins by no means accepted a moral defeat against Kansas State, but the head coach did admit he saw improvement as well.
"We played hard. I thought we competed for the most part. The problem is we haven’t done it for a consistent period of time," he said after the loss to Kansas State.
The Mountaineers will now continue on the difficult trek through conference play and will need to also continue to raise their energy level if they want to put a good position in March.
But the team’s progression is apparent.
"We made a big improvement. (Kansas State) was a ranked team," said freshman guard Eron Harris. "But still, even though we lost, we know we fought hard and we’re going to take it in to the next game."