WVU youth not to blame for everything in Seton Hall loss
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As the season has progressed, it seemed the West Virginia University men's basketball team was maturing more quickly than anybody had anticipated.
As the Mountaineers won six of seven games - the only loss was a two-point overtime defeat to unbeaten and then-No. 7 Baylor in Las Vegas - they were making noise.
The latest one heard, however, was a thud - a 19-point loss to Big East member Seton Hall. The Mountaineers (10-4, 1-1 Big East) will try to rebound from that disheartening defeat with a 7 p.m. visit to Rutgers (9-6, 1-1) at the RAC (Louis Brown Athletic Center).
The defeat to the Pirates didn't hurt the Mountaineers' RPI - they still sit at No. 26 - but they can ill-afford to let the Seton Hall defeat turn into a losing streak.
The Big East has three of the top four teams in RPI rank - Syracuse is first, Connecticut third and Seton Hall fourth - and the Mountaineers play host to the Huskies on Monday as the last of three games in five days.
"Let's not blame it all on the youth," said Huggins, whose top three freshmen - Jabarie Hinds, Gary Browne and Aaron Brown - combine to 19.6 points per game.
"Truck (Bryant) was 3-for-16, Deniz (Kilicli) didn't have one of his better games and KJ (Kevin Jones) sprained his ankle."
Hinds (8.0 points per game), Browne (6.2) and Brown (5.4) are fourth, fifth and sixth in scoring respectively for WVU, but Hinds and Browne are first and tied for second on the team in assists. Hinds leads the team in 3-point field goal percentage (.370).
The team's linchpin remains Jones, a senior who averages 20 points and 11.4 rebounds. Bryant is averaging 17.4 points and Kilicli is scoring 10.9 points per game.
Tonight's game begins a stretch of key Big East games. After Rutgers, the Mountaineers host Georgetown on Saturday, visit UConn on Monday and return home for another matchup with the Scarlet Knights on Jan. 14.
On Jan. 18 they take a break from conference play at the Charleston Civic Center to face Marshall, which defeated WVU there last year.
Since the Seton Hall loss, focus in practice has been on fixing the offense.
"We were inept offensively," Huggins said. "That's as bad offensively I think we've been. We started out the game missing easy shots."
The 48 points against the Pirates was the lowest point total the Mountaineers have had since a 54-43 defeat to Kentucky in Las Vegas on Nov. 29, 2009 - a span of 115 games.
"We didn't execute," Huggins said.
"KJ wasn't the normal KJ since he sprained his ankle. He wasn't moving, couldn't jump and was really limited in what he could do. You take him out of the equation and Truck goes 3-for-16, we're not very good."
Rutgers is led in scoring by freshman Eli Carter, a 6-2 guard who averages 13.5 points per game. Myles Mack (11.0) and Gilvydas Biruta (10.9) are the Scarlet Knights' other double-figure scorers.
"He plays well off the bounce," Huggins said of Carter. "They'll ball screen for him a lot. Dane Miller is as good an athlete as there is in our league."
Miller is a 6-6 junior swingman who leads the team in minutes (28.3 per game) and averages 5.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.3 blocks and 1.8 steals.
"They play extremely hard," Huggins said of Rutgers. "They're kind of like playing Kansas State. Good ball pressure and they do a great job of getting to help. Lately, their guards have played really well."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.