MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Back from a humbling trip to Germany and its worst defeat in more than two years, No. 24 West Virginia seeks an early season reset.
The Mountaineers (0-1) play their basketball home opener against American (0-1) on Wednesday night, four days after absorbing an 88-65 loss to Texas A&M at Ramstein Air Base.
Aside from the opening minutes, “Press Virginia” didn’t choke passing lanes or create traps like it typically does. When poor transition defense led to 12 layups and dunks by Texas A&M, coach Bob Huggins blamed his team’s deep-shooting offense for making matters worse.
“We were actually better coming out of the press than we were on a missed shot,” he said. “When you shoot 40 3-pointers and make 12, there were a lot of opportunities for them to run.”
Third on the active coaches list with 819 wins, Huggins blamed himself for defensive leaks that helped the Aggies averaged more than a point per possession overall and shoot 52 percent in the second half.
“You get 30 practices, which seems like a lot, but it’s really not when you think about the things we have to cover,” Huggins said. “And I did a bad job.”
Preseason All-Big 12 point guard Jevon Carter finished with 13 points and seven assists but committed four turnovers. He combined to shoot 5 of 17 with backcourt mate Daxter Miles, who had three points after being plagued by minor injuries during the past month.
“JC had a bad game and that’s going to happen every once in a while,” Huggins said. “Dax has got to practice. When you sit out as much as he’s sat out, you’re not going to be any good. Dax is kind of a rhythm shooter, and his shots were not even close.”
With forward Esa Ahmad facing a drug-related NCAA suspension that will stretch into January, West Virginia had virtually no low-post offense. Its four-man rotation of inside players produced only four points in the paint, though 6-foot-8 forward Wesley Harris sank four 3s.
This begins a string of three games in five days for West Virginia, which hasn’t dropped a home open since the 1989-90 season. The odds look good for that string to continue, considering American was picked next-to-last in the Patriot League preseason poll. The Eagles were blown out in their first game, 83-45 at Kansas State.
“It’s a brutal first couple of games, obviously,” American coach Mike Brennan said. “It was good for us to see what a good team looks like.
“I thought we have been practicing well, but we were practicing against each other. When you play against teams like that, it puts a little more oomph behind the things you see in practice that need to get better. When our guys are going against their roommate, they don’t necessarily see it, but now they see it.”
Junior guard Larry Motozis, a transfer from NAIA Saint Xavier University, scored 17 at K-State, but American also starts two freshmen forwards, Jesse Little and Sam Iorio, who combined for 1-of-9 shooting in their debuts.
“Now they see what college basketball is like, and they know a little bit more about what they have to do,” Brennan said.
West Virginia (0-1) vs. American (0-1)
Tipoff: Wednesday 7 p.m., Morgantown (AT&T SportsNet)
The skinny: Expect a grittier effort after the Mountaineers folded up in the second half against Texas A&M. It starts with tougher rebounding against a less athletic opponent: American was outboarded 41-23 by K-State.
Prediction: West Virginia 90-59