(Bob Huggins Pre-Game Zoom Lecture)
Earlier this week, West Virginia found that its scheduled second Big 12 Conference game on Monday at TCU had been postponed due to COVID-19 protocols in the Horned Frogs’ schedule.
This is WVU’s first postponement of the 2021-22 season, although when the Mountaineers start the Big 12 at noon Saturday at No.17 in Texas, they won’t be doing it at full power, which the coach- WVU chief Bob Huggins confirmed on Friday.
“We had a few [COVID complications]”Huggins said.” We have a couple who will be [out] under the COVID protocol.
Huggins has not revealed which of his team would miss the game at the Erwin Center, the one that marks West Virginia’s first game since December 22.
The Mountaineers (11-1) have the winners of eight straight games, but will likely have their hands full with the Longhorns. Texas (10-2) leads college basketball in scoring defense and allows 51.2 points on average under head coach Chris Beard, who is in his first year at UT after a successful five-year stint at Texas Tech.
“Chris has always done a great job of stopping penetration,” Huggins said. “It’s not Pack Line, but they pack one side. They’re pretty much trying to get you to play on one side of the floor and outnumber you on that side of the floor. He’s done a great job with it over the years and they’ve perfected it.
“Watching their games, they improve more and more defensively.
The Longhorns have won four in a row, although their two losses came against the only two ranked teams they have played at this stage – Gonzaga (86-74) and Seton Hall (64-60).
A significant influx of transfers is paving the way for the Longhorns, with the team’s top three scorers all in their first seasons in Texas. Utah transfer Timmy Allen, a 6-foot-6 forward, averages 11.9 points, the team’s top. Other forwards Tre Mitchell, a UMass transfer, and Dylan Disu, who previously played at Vanderbilt, are averaging 10.9 and 10.3 points, respectively. Disu missed the first eight games of the season before being medically cleared to play.
Texas also have plenty of ability in their backcourt, with returning guards Andrew Jones and Courtney Ramey combining with Minnesota transfer Marcus Carr to give Beard’s side a talented trio on the perimeter.
Jones, Carr and Ramey each averaged between 8.3 and 9.3 points, while Creighton’s 6-7 transfer Christian Bishop is the team’s seventh-leading scorer with 7.3 points.
“They are really talented,” Huggins said. “They have a lot of guys who can score, a big height and a lot of depth. Chris did a great job on the portal.
Carr played his first year at Pitt, before averaging 15.4 and 19.4 points in two seasons with the Golden Gophers. He hasn’t scored or shot as much in Texas, but Huggins believes the 6-2 senior has a place alongside Jones, Ramey and his colleague Jase Febres.
“He did a good thing with the ball when he has the ball,” Huggins said. “It fits in extremely well. They have a lot of guys, and sometimes it’s hard when you have that many guys who are all pretty much the same. These guys from the perimeter that they have are great. Febres is as good a shot as there possibly is in the country and no one mentions him all. They’re big and they’ve made a hell of a team.
Huggins is hoping his team’s defense can cause problems for Texas, just as it has for the majority of opponents so far.
WVU has kept opposition under 60 points in six straight games and ranks 28th in defensive scoring averaging 59.8 points.
“We have to do our job and sit down and try to stay in front of them as best we can and limit their number of shots,” Huggins said.
The Mountaineers may find it difficult to score, but they continue to rely heavily on guard Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil to fill that role.
Sherman came on Friday as the 13th-leading scorer in college basketball and second among the Big 12 with 20.9 points.
McNeil has double-digit scores in 10 of 11 games he’s been in and is coming off a high 23 points against the Penguins.
Jalen Bridges walks the Mountaineers with a team-record 5.1 rebound average in addition to being their third-leading scorer with 7.3 points.
Saturday’s game will air on ESPNU, and with the TCU game postponed, this is WVU’s only contest between December 23 and January 7. The Mountaineers host Kansas State for the Big 12 opener on Jan.8.
“It’s especially difficult for us because we can’t jump on a bus and play. We had planned a two game road trip and it’s a lot easier for our guys than getting on the plane to Austin and coming home and turning around and going back to Fort Worth, ”he said. Huggins said. “It’s no one’s fault. There is no one to blame. It’s like that. We have to deal with it. “