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.