During his weekly call-in show, Bob Huggins spent a few hilarious minutes razzing pro angler Curtis Fleming for repeatedly hanging his jig in the rocks as the two fly-fished on the Potomac River.
Had Fleming been so inclined to jab back, he could have noted that his casting was no more errant than WVU’s 3-point shooting.
Ranked 307th out of 345 teams nationally in 3-point field goals per game (4.4), the Mountaineers make too few to qualify for the NCAA 3-point percentage rankings — of which they’d also dip in the sub-300 wasteland thanks to a 27.5-percent clip.
Oklahoma (9-3, 0-0 Big 12) at West Virginia (7-5, 0-0) WHEN: Saturday, 4 p.m. TV: Big 12 Network RADIO: MetroNews coverage starts at 3 p.m.
But with Big 12 conference play dawning, Huggins isn’t chalking up the 2012-13 season as the one that got away. The league’s 18-game round-robin affords West Virginia a two-month stretch to dramatically improve its 107 RPI and push for a sixth straight NCAA tournament bid. Huggins would prefer to win 14 or 15 games and challenge for the Big 12 title, but he said “probably 10 to 12 and a win or two in the conference tournament puts us in decent shape.”
The rub, of course, is that West Virginia (7-5) hasn’t looked the part of an upper-tier Big 12 team so far, having gone 0-4 against top-100 RPI teams. Among those was a 77-70 loss to Oklahoma at the Old Spice Classic on Nov. 25. The same Sooners (9-3) visit Morgantown on Saturday for the league opener, and they’ll encounter a WVU team angling for a turnaround.
“In four years I’ve seen a lot of teams start off bad, and when they got into conference games they picked it up and played better,” said senior forward Deniz Kilicli. “I think we’re ready because we played good teams in our nonconference games.”
Huggins sounded confident when he said “we’re looking forward to playing Oklahoma again” — perhaps a nod to WVU essentially stalemating the Sooners through the first 35 minutes in Orlando. Had the Mountaineers played better transition defense in the final minutes of that first meeting, both teams would be 8-4 entering tomorrow.
Kilicli, who posted 13 point and four rebounds in 23 foul-plagued minutes against OU, claimed the signs of progress are obvious internally, even as WVU survived too-close-for-comfort wins over Oakland, Radford and Eastern Kentucky — teams with a combined 16-20 mark against D-I opposition.
“We just watched the Oklahoma game again,” Kilicli said after Friday’s practice, “and everybody was running around (chaotically) in the Old Spice Classic. But it’s not happening like that anymore. We’ve fixed some stuff. I’m not saying we’re going to pay mistake-free, but people now know how to help each other. I think we’ll be way better.”
SCOUTING THE SOONERS
Oklahoma stands 2-2 against the top 100 with its best win coming 64-54 over Texas A&M. As bad as a 56-55 home loss to Stephen F. Austin looks, the Lumberjacks (11-1) sport a 45 RPI.
Part mechanical and part confidence, WVU ranks ninth in the 10-team Big 12 in 3-point accuracy and overall field-goal percentage (40.7). Huggins said his players are trying to address their shooting woes in practice.
“They know what they’re doing wrong,” he said. “They come in the gym and do it right. But then you get in he came and people are running at you, you just revert back to the mechanics you’ve done your whole life. It’s just a matter of shooting it the right way enough that they can transfer that in to game situations.”
ROTATION STAYS FLEXIBLE
After essentially using nine players the past two games, Huggins said he hasn’t settled on a rotation and remains flexible to alternate combinations.
“I didn’t play Kevin Noreen for two games and he deserves to play,” Huggins said. “We need to get him in the game — he brings too much to the package not to play him.
“You add him and it’s 10. And who knows, if we don’t make any shots, maybe Matt Humphrey can make a shot. Or Aaron Brown — he was our best 3-point percentage shooter last year.”