MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WVU men’s basketball head coach Bob Huggins held his weekly press conference on Thursday ahead of Friday’s highly-anticipated matchup in the Backyard Brawl against Pittsburgh.
Huggins spoke of the upcoming rivalry game, and assessed his team’s play from Tuesday night. Here are the four biggest takeaways.
Possible attendance record?
The Backyard Brawl always draws a big crowd. In fact, three of the ten largest home crowds in Coliseum history have come to watch the Mountaineers take on the Panthers.
Friday’s installment will make history, however.
According to the head coach, this will mark the first-ever November sellout in program and Coliseum history.
The game was announced as a sellout on Wednesday.
Backyard Brawl has always been intense
The basketball version of the Backyard Brawl dates back to 1906, and it’s always brought intense play and electric atmospheres.
However, since the two teams didn’t meet from from 2013-2016 and have only met twice since it was renewed in 2017, the intensity in the rivalry has cooled some, says Huggins.
“At the peak, WVU-Pitt was more intense than any other rivalry I knew. Everyone was fighting. Fans were fighting,” said Huggins. “Players don’t ask or really get into it. It’s been dead for so long. It’s been dead a while. It really wasn’t — in the Big East days, it wasn’t near like when I played. Still pretty good, but you didn’t have all the craziness, it was a basketball game. The craziness wasn’t involved.”
WVU and Pitt didn’t play one another last season, but resume the rivalry on Friday — but Huggins believes it should be played every season moving forward.
The Backyard Brawl is scheduled to be played through the 2023-2024 season.
Rebounding and ball pressure need to improve
“It’s not that hard to rebound it opposite if you’ll just get opposite,” said Huggins, who also referred to the rebounding discrepancy as “mind blowing.”
West Virginia was out-rebounded by 15 in the season opener.
As far as ball pressure was concerned, Huggins sees room for improvement in that area, as well.
“We didn’t help the way we needed to help,” said Huggins. “We waved at it. I think we did a pretty good job when they rolled to the basket down the middle of the floor, but everybody’s in there then. We just got to do a better job of closing gaps,”
Guarding the 3-pointer
WVU held Oakland to just 3-23 shooting from 3-point range. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh allowed The Citadel to make 13 of 36 threes in its season-opener Tuesday.
Both WVU and Pitt both struggled shooting from beyond the arc in the first game of the season.
While Huggins hopes his team’s shots fall, he’s not anticipating his players to get easy looks from distance.
“Its’ one of those things where they played a team, who they made shots. They made hard shots,” Huggins said. “I watched it three or four times, and they made hard shots. It wasn’t just standing there shooting step-in threes,. They drove it, pitched it,” Huggins said of Pitt’s opponent. “I think they didn’t expect that. They’ll expect what they’re going to get from us.”