MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Bob Huggins hopes his frustrations will be relieved on Wednesday when his team hosts Baylor at the WVU Coliseum.
The Mountaineers’ hopes have shifted after the team suffered its worst start to Big 12 play since the 2018-19 season with three straight losses. WVU could have picked up a couple of wins in that span if the ball had bounced in the squad’s favor, but Huggins was clear about the root of his team’s troubles.
“We haven’t made shots, we haven’t made free throws, we’ve missed countless layups, we don’t guard very well, we don’t rebound very well,” Huggins said. “I mean, hence we’re 0-3, but the reality is, we were up on K-State, really had a chance, took it to overtime, we had opportunities we just didn’t come through with the opportunities that were presented to us.”
WVU has made 12 percent fewer field goals against Big 12 foes than it did in non-conference play. Its turnover numbers have spiked, losing the ball an average of more than 15 times over the last three games.
The Big 12 remains the toughest league in the country and the Mountaineers continue their gauntlet against the Bears on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET, who are in a similar conundrum. Baylor recently slipped out of the AP Top 25 after opening its conference slate with its own trio of losses.
The Mountaineer fans in the Coliseum will have much of their attention focused on forward Jalen Bridges, the former WVU forward who transferred to Baylor in the offseason. The Fairmont Senior graduate quickly found a spot in coach Scott Drew’s starting five and averages 8.9 points and 4.8 rebounds for the Bears.
Rather than his former player, Huggins has his own focus zeroed in on the Bears’ guards.
“Their guards are good, and the guards take the vast majority of their shots, so my focus…I’m trying to figure out how we slow those guards down,” Huggins said.
Freshman Keyonte George is one of the breakout stars in the league so far this season, leading the Bears in scoring. He’s just one weapon at Drew’s disposal as many of the names from Baylor’s 2021 national championship squad, like Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer, remain in the lineup in 2023.
“I think [George] is really, really good. He’s probably going to be great, but those other guys that have been there are really good,” Huggins said. “I can’t emphasize that enough to you, they’re really good. THey can create, they shoot it from — I guess if they were shooting it at our place, they’d shoot it from the ‘W’ at halfcourt. Their range is incredible.”
WVU is weathering some uncertainty in its own backcourt. Point guard Kedrian Johnson remains day-to-day after missing WVU’s loss to Kansas with a concussion.
“He went a little bit [on Monday], that’s all I can tell you. We’ll see what he can do [Tuesday],” Huggins said.
Tip-off between West Virginia and Baylor is set for 7 p.m. ET and the game will be shown on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.