Huggins, Mountaineers set for top-20 clash with Richmond

WVU Basketball

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After a subpar performance in the win over North Texas, WVU men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins seeks more energy from his players in their next game, but another tough test awaits in No. 19 Richmond, the second ranked opponent the Mountaineers will face this season. 

Quick Hits

  • No. 11 West Virginia (5-1) vs. No. 19 Richmond (4-0)
  • Tip-off at 1 p.m. at the WVU Coliseum 
  • Network: ESPN
  • WVU is 41-13 all-time against Richmond, a former Southern Conference foe
  • The Mountaineers won the most recent meeting in November 2015, 67-59
  • WVU is an 8.5-point favorite

Scouting the Spiders

Huggins has praised Richmond’s offense, which has scored at least 76 points in all four of its wins this season. The Spiders average 78.3 points per game, while WVU averages 75.2 points per game through six contests. 

“I think if there was one thing I could say that would make them a really good offensive team is they all can pass,” Huggins said. “You saw how many we got deflected [vs. North Texas]. They don’t get passes deflected. They don’t throw them at people’s feet, they don’t throw them over people’s heads. They generally throw it to them in the shooting pocket.” 

Richmond is coached by Chris Mooney, the program’s all-time wins leader. Mooney is in his 16th season with the Spiders. 

Bringing more energy

Huggins wasn’t pleased after that win over North Texas, and shared a resounding message after the game. 

“That was not my team out there,” he said. 

The Mountaineers started slowly, trailing 29-21 at halftime, but rode a second half surge to a 12-point win. They’ll likely need a stronger, more complete performance Sunday against the Spiders. 

“We just didn’t play hard,” Huggins said. “I can deal with missed shots. I can deal with missed free throws. I can’t deal with not playing hard, and we didn’t play hard.”

Tshiebwe slumping? 

Huggins wants to see more production from one player in particular: sophomore forward Oscar Tshiebwe. 

The preseason All-Big 12 first team honoree has experienced a downtick in production to start the season. Though he’s second on the team in rebounding, he’s currently fifth in scoring, averaging 7.7 points per game. He’s also playing fewer minutes this season — even though he has started all six games, Tshiebwe averages under 20 minutes per contest.

Huggins provided a diagnosis of Tshiebwe’s issues this season, saying the forward hasn’t finished around the rim, hasn’t knocked down jump shots and hasn’t effectively used the trademark speed that separates him from most other bigs. 

“I love the kid,” Huggins said. “I’m not trying to say something disrespectful to him, but he hasn’t played very well. He hasn’t finished, hasn’t ran, hasn’t rebounded as well.” 

But Huggins added that Tshiebwe’s slow start to the season could be linked to larger team issues, including the fact that the Mountaineers aren’t passing the ball well. They average 11.5 turnovers per game, though they’re positive in turnover margin.

“We ran a lot of roll and replace with he and [forward] Derek [Culver] a year ago,” Huggins said. “I can’t do that now, because they’re gonna throw it to the wrong team. That shouldn’t happen, because they did it a year ago.” 

On the other hand, fellow forward Culver is averaging a double-double to start the season, logging 14.5 points and 10.7 rebounds per contest. 

Final Thoughts

  • The Spiders are the first ranked nonconference opponent to visit the Coliseum since Virginia in December 2017. The No. 15 Mountaineers beat the No. 18 Cavaliers in that matchup, 68-61
  • WVU is 72-4 in its last 76 home games in the month of December
  • Bob Huggins seeks win No. 887 Sunday. His all-time record stands at 886-373 in his 39th season as a head coach

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