CINCINNATI - Oscar Robertson maneuvered through the human traffic to make his way to Bob Huggins Saturday night and the college and NBA great congratulated the West Virginia coach on the 66-55 win against Cincinnati.
"Good win," Robertson said as he hugged Huggins.
"They're all good," Huggins said.
This one had to feel a little different, though.
Huggins won in his second game back at the Fifth Third Arena he once called home on a night he was cheered by the 13,176 who used to call him coach. The Mountaineers, still with just eight available players, still using only seven, grinded the Bearcats for 40 minutes with defense and rebounding and a long line of hustle plays that gave WVU significant advantages in rebounds and free throw attempts.
When it was done, WVU won where Cincinnati hadn't lost all season.
"When people think you can't do something," Huggins explained, "it's a great time to do things."
That goes beyond winning on the road with a thin lineup against a team that won its first 13 games on its home floor.
The Mountaineers weren't able to fly home following Wednesday's brutal loss at Louisville and instead stayed on the road the rest of the week. Thursday, though, was to be an off day, as ordered by NCAA rules.
The players decided to walk to the KFC Yum! Center, obsess over the scouting report and then follow the leaders through an impromptu practice to get ready for a game it needed to have.
"The good thing was we didn't have much time to think about the Louisville game," said point guard Joe Mazzulla. "For two hours, we did everything we'd normally do in practice. The underclassmen listened and we were able to start preparing for Cincinnati. I think that was great for us to pull together as a team and have the leaders step forward."
As he was in practice, Mazzulla was out in front in the game. He had 16 points, seven rebounds and eight assists and controlled the pace of the game late in the second half once WVU built a sizeable lead.
"He'll have games like that," Huggins said. "He has a great will and he willed the ball to the goal for us."
John Flowers added 16 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots. Deniz Kilicli, Truck Bryant and Kevin Jones each scored eight points and Dalton Pepper made a pair of 3-pointers for six points.
WVU outrebounded Cincinnati, 42-30, and had a 19-10 edge in second-chance points. The Mountaineers, who missed free throws in the final 30 seconds against the Cardinals and allowed Peyton Siva to make the game-winning layup with 4.5 seconds left, were 24-for-30 at the foul line against Cincinnati.