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WVU basketball: Huggins not impressed

MORGANTOWN - It's been a week since West Virginia's basketball team opened its season with the worst loss in Bob Huggins' 31 years as a head coach. The Mountaineers have practiced a few times since and will do so some more before Thursday's opening game at the Old Spice Classic.

The Classic begins with a noon game against Marist in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Only then can they change the impression they made in the 84-50 loss at Gonzaga.

"I thought we'd be better," Huggins said. "I thought our returning guys would do a better job, but the honest to God truth is we started three of them who haven't played."

The Mountaineers started three transfers - point guard Juwan Staten, shooting guard Matt Humphrey and center Aaric Murray. Staten had one assist, two turnovers and went scoreless on six shots in 34 minutes. Humphrey was 2-for-8 from the floor and missed 6 of 7 3-point attempts. He had five points in 19 minutes. Murray led the team in scoring with 14 points, but he had two dunks in the closing moments.

No one else was much better. Murray (5-for-8) was the only player to shoot better than 50 percent on a night WVU shot 15-for-55 and had 20 turnovers. The Bulldogs had seven steals, 25 points off turnovers and 27 defensive rebounds to WVU's 18 offensive rebounds and generally won the hustle plays by getting to the ball first.

"We have a tendency to watch instead of playing," Huggins said. "We get beat to balls because we don't react. We just watch. We're trying to figure out a way out of it to do a better job guarding."

The 20 turnovers looked worse next to eight assists and many of WVU's shots came outside the structure of the offense.

The Mountaineers didn't do much in transition because of their turnovers and Gonzaga's scores, but Huggins didn't like the way his team played his motion offense when the opportunities were there.

"We'll be a whole lot better at the end of the year obviously because we'll have more guys learning how to pass the ball," Huggins said. "When you put the ball in everyone's hands with as many people as we play, you're betting on a lot of people to make decisions.

"That didn't work out very well for us and we're going to attempt to fix that and put guys more in position to be successful and at the same time continue to work on making the other guys better decision makers."

The motion offense essentially treats everyone as equals and gives the players chances to make passes to people cutting on drives or maneuvering to get open for shots.

It's at its best when the players know one another and can anticipate and react to teammates and what they are going to do.

With so many players new to the team and to the concept, Huggins saw the offense struggle. What he'd like to see now is players identify themselves as decision makers who can be relied upon to keep the ball moving and let the offense function.

That's going to take time, especially as Huggins looks to extend his bench and use a lot of players.

"Obviously we're going to have to keep the ball in Juwan's hands more and let him make more decisions than what those other guys are making," Huggins said. "And we're going to have to be a little more selective as to who else is making decisions. In all honesty, we think we're better than what we are individually.

"Guys try to make plays that they can't make, and that doesn't help us. I think it's a matter of defining roles. We really, up to that point, didn't do a good enough job putting seven or eight guys together and playing them a lot, because we were going to try to wear people down. We didn't wear anybody down."

Through better decisions come better shots and the Mountaineers missed 23 of 26 3-point shots against Gonzaga. Huggins wasn't a fan of many of the attempts because they were hurried, either early in the shot clock, without feet set properly or before teammates knew what to expect.

It often led to bad possessions, easy rebounds for Gonzaga and transition offense for the Bulldogs.

"It's not that they can't make them, but we don't need to create them," Huggins said.

"The truth of the matter is it's hard for our bigs to rebound the ball when they never know when somebody's going to burp it up.

"We've got some guys who really need to limit their shot-making exploits to the end of the clock and then we'll all know they're going to shoot it and we can all go rebound it. Life would be a lot better."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.


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