Bob Huggins is weathering his team’s longest losing streak of the season as WVU men’s basketball prepares to host the Oklahoma Sooners on Wednesday.
West Virginia has lost three straight games to ranked opponents, and in that time, the Mountaineers have shown some positives and some negatives. Here’s a breakdown of what the coach had to say on Tuesday:
Malik Curry is coming into his own
Huggins and his team were struck with some major personnel issues in the offseason, and to fill his roster, he turned to the transfer portal. Guard Malik Curry was one of a few additions after last season, and he has proven to be one of the best players on the squad this year.
In fact, the former Old Dominion Monarch has been one of the only bright spots during WVU’s latest skid, averaging 17.7 points per game over the last three games, including a season-high 23-point performance at Kansas on Jan. 15.
“I think he’s been really good,” Huggins said. “He’s gotten better defensively. He’s been our one guy who consistently we could give the ball to and he scored.”
This is no surprise to Huggins. He said he spoke to ODU coach Jeff Jones before Curry started playing for WVU — and now, Jones’s scouting report is coming to fruition.
New OU coach, same tough Sooners
Lon Kruger officially retired as Oklahoma’s head coach after the 2020-21 season, marking the end of a career for one of the Big 12’s several coaches who had reached a Final Four. Unfortunately for the rest of the league, OU brought on another in former Loyola-Chicago coach Porter Moser, who led the Ramblers to the 2018 Final Four with the help of the famous Sister Jean.
Moser didn’t get much of a roster to start out with, though. Just four Sooners returned to the squad as some of the squad’s best players either went pro or in the portal, so Moser himself was forced to bring on some transfers to fill the gaps. It worked out,
“They’re really good. They run great offense,” “[Moser] has done a great job putting a team together….Well, they had a chance to beat Kansas, they had a chance to beat Baylor. Actually, they led both of them late into the game.”
That last part sounds familiar to WVU fans.
Moser’s biggest asset on offense is a portal product, big man Tanner Groves from Eastern Washington. He leads the team in scoring after a massive three-year playing career at his last stop, and now, he leads the Sooners in the scoring department.
OU isn’t one-sided, though — Huggins also praised its ability to do the dirty work.
“They do a great job [on defense],” Huggins said. “They’ve got a couple of guys who rebound it really well out of their area, kind of like a [former WVU forward] Jon Holton was for us.”
Cleaning up WVU’s mistakes
Cohesion has been an issue for the Mountaineers in recent games. They’ve committed 13.7 turnovers per game during the skid, and topped that on Saturday against Texas Tech with a season-high 17.
“I wondered why we turned it over so much, they don’t know each other I guess,” Huggins said. “Really, having the same color uniform on ought to be just a clue for them.”
WVU’s squad is relatively piecemeal compared to other seasons, with one-and-done players like Curry getting significant minutes. It’s clear they’re still getting comfortable with one another even several games into the conference slate.
With just over a month to go in the regular season, will Huggins get his team on the right track?
“I’m gonna try like crazy,” he said.