MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia didn’t suddenly stock its roster with a bunch of Dennis Rodmans. It just seemed that way Monday night after the Mountaineers outboarded Loyola 62-22.
What happened to the West Virginia squad that outrebounded only two of its first seven opponents? In the championship game of the Cancun Challenge, Wisconsin held a 37-27 edge, and in the semifinal, Old Dominion led 35-28. Even Duquesne (39-30) and Mount Saint Mary’s (30-28) had outrebounded WVU this season.
What changed in the 96-47 dousing of Loyola?
“We made it our goal,” said forward Kevin Noreen. “It has been instilled in us that we better get rebounds or else. Coach Huggins has his ways.”
Noreen grabbed seven of his eight boards in the opening half, during which West Virginia held a 34-7 edge on the glass. That included a 17-0 margin in offensive rebounds.
“I do not know what to tell you,” said Loyola coach G.G. Smith. “We had zero offensive rebounds in the first half. I know they (West Virginia) do a great job of teaching playing the boards … (but) our big men were slow to the ball and we were beat to every single rebound. No matter the direction the ball was going, they beat us.”
Point guard Juwan Staten fought for a game-high 10 rebounds, while Nate Adrian chipped in nine. The Mountaineers’ 62 rebounds was their most in 22 seasons, dating back to the 64 they grabbed against Radford on Dec. 2, 1991.
Not that Huggins was necessarily satisfied. Despite the monumental 40-rebound difference, he still questioned his team’s rebounding effort at times.
“It was better, but Juwan Staten was the only one who really did what I asked: He put his body on people,” Huggins said. “We did a poor job on post defense and then we let them step around us. When they missed shots they were able to follow. We can’t do that.”
Huggins particularly took exception with Remi Dibo’s performance, which included a game-high 19 points but only four rebounds.
“I said to Remi, ‘You’ve got to go rebound the ball, and he said ‘I tried,'” explained Huggins. “But I said, ‘Nah, nah, nah. No you didn’t. They don’t generally bounce to halfcourt.'”