Coaches preach to their players not to look ahead, and West Virginia coach Bob Huggins already has sent one message to that effect.
He soon will see how his Mountaineers (3-0) respond when they welcome the Ivy League’s Penn Quakers (1-3) to Morgantown on Friday night.
Before West Virginia’s 75-57 win over visiting Morehead State on Tuesday, Huggins was unhappy with his team’s attitude, and he benched one player, James Okonkwo.
Noting that Morehead State had beaten Bellarmine — which had beaten Louisville earlier this season — Huggins wanted to get his team’s attention.
The players “didn’t do anything bad,” Huggins acknowledged, although he added, “I was kinda upset with the whole crew, but probably James more than the rest that they weren’t taking it real serious.”
The Mountaineers went on a 19-7 run to open the second half to effectively put away Morehead State, as Tre Mitchell scored six of his game-high 21 points.
Mitchell, a transfer from Texas, is still getting back into the basketball groove after being sidelined for more than two months with a foot injury. Through three games he is averaging 14.0 points and 5.0 rebounds.
“I didn’t know he can do a good many of the things that he can do,” Huggins said, saying that the Longhorns used him mostly as a shooter. “As he continues to get in shape, I think he will continue to get better and better. I think you’re seeing why we were excited to get him.”
Penn needed some late-game heroics on Tuesday to get its first win, beating Philadelphia neighbor Drexel 64-59.
Jordan Dingle is averaging 19.8 points per game for the Quakers. He and Clark Slajchert (15.0 ppg) are their only players above 5.8 points per game, however.
Slajchert made a key basket in the win over Drexel, nailing a 3-pointer with 1:27 left after the Dragons had used an 11-2 run to cut a 15-point deficit to 57-55. The junior is shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range this season.
Penn coach Steve Donahue wasn’t surprised to see the junior come through.
“He’s just a stone-cold killer. The moments aren’t too big. And I thought (to) call his number because it’s not a big deal to him. This is what he does, and he’s very confident in his ability,” Donahue told The Daily Pennsylvanian.
Huggins, who is in his 38th season in Division I coaching, needs one more win to tie longtime UConn coach Jim Calhoun with 920 career wins.
–Field Level Media