Mountaineers return to court tonight

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia coach Bob Huggins has now had a few days to ponder his team’s 23-point loss to now-16th-ranked Texas A&M last Friday night at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, and he believes transition defense is the first item on his list of things he needs to fix.

The Aggies scored 24 points in transition against the Mountaineers, many of those coming off missed jump shots.

“We were actually better coming out of the press than we were on a missed shot,” Huggins said before Tuesday’s practice inside the WVU Coliseum. “When you shoot 40 3s and make 12, there were a lot of opportunities for them to run.”

And run A&M did, scoring an alarming 88 points.

“You get 30 practices, which seems like a lot, but it’s really not when you think about the things we have to cover,” Huggins explained. “And I did a bad job. We did a really bad job in transition defense.

“We kind of went over it a little bit, and we kind of assumed some things that they didn’t know.”

There were plenty of areas that need cleaned up, from far too many long jump shots to careless turnovers to getting into a little better condition.

Some of these things have popped up in practice, but not quite the way they did last Friday against what is probably a better-than-advertised Aggies team.

“We’ve got to clean some stuff up, but you just don’t know that until you play,” Huggins explained. “Albany is very well coached but we just didn’t let them get into what they do well so we didn’t get out of that what I had hoped we would get out of that.

“Probably the Purdue scrimmage was a little too late and that’s when they wanted to do it,” Huggins said. “They’re different teams. Purdue played really small and Texas A&M is really big. They’ve got a lot of size and they’ve got a lot of length.”

Huggins thought a key point in the game came late in the first half when West Virginia was leading by 13 and missed some key opportunities to extend the lead.

“We get a traveling call, we lose the ball a couple of times and we didn’t handle contact well,” he said. “They played well. I’m not sure we’ll play many people who will shoot the ball the way they shot the ball. Their 6-9 guy (D.J. Hogg), I watched him warming up and he made 12 straight 3s, missed one, and made another 10 or 11 in a row. (Admon) Gilder is a good player, and he hurt us last year.”

West Virginia got a team-high 19 points from sophomore guard James Bolden, but regular guards Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles Jr. struggled last Friday night.

Carter was 4 of 11 from the floor, scored 13 points and committed four turnovers. Miles Jr. was 1 of 6 and turned the ball over twice in just 21 minutes of action.

“JC had a bad game and that’s going to happen every once in a while,” Huggins said. “JC had 37 against Purdue, so I don’t know how much more we can ask from him. Dax has got to practice. When you sit out as much as he’s sat out, you’re not going to be any good.

“Dax is kind of a rhythm shooter, and his shots were not even close. The one about landed out of bounds he missed so bad. He doesn’t do that when he’s in a groove.”

The wings also struggled shooting the basketball and Huggins indicated that he would like to see sophomore forward Wesley Harris work a little closer to the basket where he can use his athleticism and jumping ability near the rim.

It’s clear the Mountaineers need to find a reliable scoring presence near the basket until suspended forward Esa Ahmad returns to the floor later this year.

“Until then, I think we can put Wes in there a little bit,” Huggins said. “There is not any reason why Sags (Sagaba Konate) and Magic (Maciej Bender) can’t score in there. If you think about it, Elijah (Macon) progressed and got better as the season wore on. I think Sags and Magic will do the same thing.”

West Virginia, now 24th this week, returns to the court tonight to face American, now 0-1 following its 83-45 loss at Kansas State last Friday night. Last year, the Eagles won just eight games in the Patriot League. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised locally on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh.

The Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG’s coverage begins at 6 p.m. on stations throughout West Virginia and online via WVUsports.com and the popular mobile app TuneIn.

Tonight’s game is one of three West Virginia has coming up during a five-day span. WVU will play Morgan State Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. following the Texas football game, and then Long Beach State follows on Monday night at the Coliseum.

Pregame notes: American is coached by Mike Brennan, now in his fifth season coaching the Eagles … American’s leading scorer is 6-6 junior guard Larry Motuzis, who scored 17 points against the Wildcats last Friday night … Wednesday night’s game will be the fifth time these two teams have met, with West Virginia owning a 4-1 record … WVU is 99-9 in home openers, its last loss in a home opener coming against Robert Morris in 1989 … the Mountaineers are 91-6 at home against non-conference teams over the last 14 years, including winning 72 of their last 76 … Last Friday’s loss to Texas A&M dropped WVU 13 spots in this week’s AP poll to No. 24; West Virginia remains No. 10 in the USA Today Coaches Poll because a new one hasn’t been released yet.

— By John Antonik, WVUsports.com

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