MORGANTOWN - The biggest difference for Bob Huggins as he prepares for the 2012-13 basketball season that informally began with Tuesday night's 95-53 win against Glenville State is that there aren't too many differences from the 2011-12 team.
These Mountaineers return eight players from last year's team. One was a junior college transfer last season and four were part of a five-freshman class. Six of the 13 players on scholarship last season were in their first year in the program. Two of the 13 sat out after transferring from Division I colleges.
Huggins was asking for more than half of that team's active roster to go 19-14 overall, 9-9 in the Big East and qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive season.
"What happened was it's not like we were bringing in a couple new guys to fit them in there," Huggins said. "We were bringing in a bunch of them and trying to fit them in there. There was something going on everywhere. You were fixing this and that stuff was going on over there. Then you'd fix that stuff and this was going on over here."
Five of those first-year players are in their second year in the program and Huggins counts the two transfers as returning players. Four of them started against the Pioneers - sophomores Jabarie Hinds at guard and Keaton Miles at forward, sophomore Juwan Staten, a transfer from Dayton, at point guard and junior Aaric Murray, a transfer from La Salle, at center. WVU's fifth starter for the Coliseum crowd of 5,208 was its most experienced player, senior Deniz Kilicli.
And yet Huggins was somewhat upset with the performance.
"I just didn't think we competed," he said. "I thought we did at first and then just kind of stopped competing. How hard is it to run the floor when supposedly you're one of the premier athletes in the country playing basketball at a high level?"
The Mountaineers were bound to be rusty, though. They worked through a variety of zones and pressures from Glenville State early. Huggins used a timeout 90 seconds in, played 10 players in the first 10 minutes and all 13 scholarship players, including freshman Volodymyr Gerun, in the opening 15 minutes.
The Mountaineers managed to get inside shots with Kilicli and second-chance baskets from Murray and Kevin Noreen while defending on the other end. WVU led 15-2 in the middle of the first half and was more composed than troubled.
A year ago, the season began with an exhibition to Northern Kentucky. Huggins wasn't pleased with simply winning a game that doesn't count because in his mind, it really does count.
"I want us to be better than we were last year," he said. "I thought we could get 10, 11 guys and we could play really, really hard and keep subbing guys in and keep people fresh to wear teams down. I don't know that we have that many people."
Kilicli had 19 points and made 8 of 10 shots, but only had three rebounds. Murray had 13 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots. Staten had 16 points, six assists, three steals and no turnovers. Gerun, who has to sit out the first six games of the season, finished with 12 points in 12 minutes.
WVU shot 50 percent, but had assists on only 14 of 37 baskets. The Mountaineers committed 13 turnovers and only outrebounded the Pioneers 46-34. They open the season next week at Gonzaga.