MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia men’s basketball picked up a massive win on Saturday, topping the 15th-ranked Auburn Tigers in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
The Mountaineers showed a lot of growth as some key players broke out of their slumps to earn the win.
Here’s what coach Bob Huggins had to say after the game:
On Stevenson’s big night…
January has been tough for Erik Stevenson. That all changed when he scored a career-high 31 points to lead the Mountaineers over the Tigers.
According to Huggins, though, he might have had something blowing a little extra wind in his sails.
“As he gleefully announced in the locker room after the game, his recruitment came down to Auburn and us,” Huggins said. “He made the right choice.”
The Mountaineer didn’t take his cold streak sitting down. Huggins said he worked hard to get back to form, and it paid off on Saturday.
“It was a matter of time. He’s put time in, he’s really worked at his mechanics.”
On winning in front of a sell-out crowd…
WVU pulled its third crowd of 14,000-plus fans on Saturday as the Coliseum was sold out.
This was the first time a Mountaineer crowd of that size was sent home in a good mood, however. WVU had dropped its previous two against Kansas and Texas, so this win meant a little extra to Huggins.
“It means everything to me. I know how hard those tickets are to get,” Huggins said. “I know how far people have to come after they get the tickets. I know the drives that they make and over the terrain that they have to drive to get here. I love them being here. I love having a full house. I tell our guys constantly that we cannot let these people down. We’ve let them down enough, we can’t continue to let them down.”
On James Okonkwo’s progress…
The sophomore forward has emerged as a force off the bench for WVU in the last two games, making some highlight reel blocks to keep the Mountaineers in front. On Saturday, he finished with six points and a pair of blocks.
“I think the biggest thing is his teammates are developing confidence in him more and more,” Huggins said. “I think that really helps him.”
Okonkwo has been a project for Huggins since he joined the team in 2021. This conference slate has shown quite a bit of growth from the Maidenhead, England native.
“James came over here from England and didn’t know anybody, talked funny and really didn’t know anything about basketball,” Huggins added. “I think as he matures as a player and as he matures as a person, he’s just going to continue to get better and better.”