WVU basketball: Huggins not pleased with direction team is heading
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins didn't like the direction his Mountaineers were headed in, so he decided to do something about it.
Huggins sat out point guard and second-leading scorer Darryl "Truck" Bryant along with key reserve Dan Jennings. Neither dressed for WVU's non-conference men's basketball game against Virginia Military Institute on Saturday night.
Despite being a little shorthanded and struggling a bit in the first half, WVU pulled away late in earning a 82-66 victory over VMI at the Charleston Civic Center in front of a boisterous crowd of 12,367.
"We're not making the progress we need to make," Huggins said.
"We don't go hard everyday. We've got guys all the time that want to take practices off and not go hard, and don't want to listen.
"We're not going to do that under my watch. I'm going to play the guys and coach the guys that want to get better and listen. We're going to do things right. I want to coach guys who want to learn."
Huggins indicated Bryant, who averages 11.3 points per game, and Jennings were not suspended. But he did not specify when the players would return to the court for the Mountaineers.
"Anybody who doesn't come in and try to get better every day, there's no sense in them playing," Huggins said. "We are going to survive. We work too hard, we play too hard, we have guys that care too much not to survive."
"It was a touchy situation and we didn't know what was happening," WVU junior standout Kevin Jones said. "There was a lot of changes but we had to work around it and not let it affect our game. We knew we had to focus on beating a good VMI team."
Jones helped lead the way for WVU (4-1) as the junior scored 22 points and grabbed six rebounds and leading scorer Casey Mitchell tallied a game-high 25 points and added seven boards in handing VMI (5-1) its first loss.
Like Bryant and Jennings, Mitchell had his issues last season, only averaging eight minutes and 3.7 points per game. This season the senior is averaging almost 30 minutes a game and leads the team with 21.4 points per game.
"Casey Mitchell has been great and very coachable," Huggins said. "He's doing all the things he didn't want to do a year ago. Casey has made himself a player because he listened and tried to do things the right way."
Added Jones: "Coach will tell you (Mitchell) wasn't the easiest person to get along with but Casey has matured so much on and off the court since he first got here last year," Jones said. "He's doing a great job and I couldn't be prouder of any guy."
In the absence of Jennings, the backup center, Huggins may have found another player to rely on in 6-foot-10, 235-pound power forward Kevin Noreen. The freshman made the most of his opportunity Saturday night.
Noreen entered the VMI game averaging just four minutes and 1 point per game but provided a spark off the bench with a season high in points (7), rebounds (five), assists (three) and minutes (14).
"Kevin Noreen was all but buried on our bench," Huggins said. "He was probably our 11th guy. I put him in tonight and he responds. He, like Casey, are two guys that want to do things right and not into doing their own thing."
Noreen was happy his name was called and is hopeful his performance against VMI will garner him more playing time in the future, which Huggins indicated clearly could be the case for Noreen.
"I certainly hope so," Noreen said. "I was excited when coach called my name and I was ready. I felt pretty good out there."
"There's only so much pie," Huggins said. "That's all there is, it's just a matter of how you cut it up. What happens is when someone (Noreen) starts to get a bigger piece, someone else is going to get a smaller piece. There's only 200 minutes."