MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Bob Huggins had quite a bit to say after his team’s win over UAB.
Kennedy’s Blazers gave the Mountaineers a run for their money at the WVU Coliseum, but in the end, West Virginia held them off to prevent a revenge win in Morgantown. UAB threw everything they had at WVU — full-court defense, physical play, even a conference player of the year — but the Mountaineers held strong and earned their eighth win of the campaign.
Here’s what Huggins thought of his team’s performance:
On WVU’s defense…
The Mountaineers mostly stepped up to the challenge, holding the Blazers to 70 points and under 50 percent shooting.
“I thought, for the most part, that is as well as we’ve played defensively,” Huggins said. “We fell asleep a few times. I know we’re standing there watching the ball when guys cut behind us and so forth. We get that fixed, and I think we’ll have a pretty good chance to be a pretty good team.”
Huggins has touted the backcourt duo of Kedrian Johnson and Joe Toussaint. His biggest issue, though, is that he hasn’t been able to play them at the same time much in order to keep them out of foul trouble.
That worked in WVU’s favor tonight as they tag-teamed guarding star guard Jordan Walker.
“You heard all week about how good the little guy is in Birmingham, and I kept saying, ‘He hasn’t seen Keddy yet.’ Keddy did a terrific job,” Huggins said. “Then when he was not on him, Joe was on him, and Joe did a good job. Those two are not just good at the defensive end, but they’re hard to guard on the offensive end. I think Keddy was one or two away from his all-time high.”
Johnson finished with 17 points on the night, one shy of his high.
On Emmitt Matthews Jr.’s toughness…
WVU had an injury scare in the opening minutes when Emmitt Matthews Jr. landed awkwardly on his knee. He exited the game in tears and went to the locker room.
Matthews was back several minutes later, and he took the lead for the Mountaineers. He finished with 16 points, the second-highest on the team, and nine rebounds.
“He wants to be here and certainly wants to be a part of what we get done here,” Huggins said. “He has really shot the ball well, and he has shot the ball much better than what he shot it before. He spent a lot of time fixing things with it. When it looked like they were ready to make a run, he’s the guy who made big shots for us.”
On facing a tough UAB defense…
UAB threw several different looks at the Mountaineers, most of which pressed WVU in the full court. That was a good test for the squad, but Huggins doesn’t think it is necessarily a barometer for its readiness for conference play.
“There’s people in our league that are going to guard that well,” Huggins said. “We got two more [games] before we get into league play, and I haven’t looked at those two teams yet.”
Ultimately, Huggins is confident about his team’s ability to score points regardless of the defense. To him, it is less about the opponent, and more about WVU’s execution.
“If we do what we are supposed to do, we have enough guys that can make shots,” Huggins said. “A big moment in the game was when they were making a run, and Tre [Mitchell] is open at three, and Tre hits a three, so now you have a 6-8 or 6-9 guy stepping out there and making threes. I think it really opened things up for us.”