MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It’s rare that No. 6 West Virginia finds itself outrebounded, as it did Saturday at Oklahoma.
To which Bob Huggins retorts: It’s rare that Devin Williams plays only 15 minutes.
The Big 12 co-leader in double-doubles is plagued by a double-standard, Huggins contends With Williams limited by foul trouble, West Virginia came up short against the Sooners, leaving Huggins sore about how the 6-foot-9 Williams gets defended in the post.
“I can’t say the truth, and I don’t know how to massage it,” said Huggins, cautious about critiquing officials to an extent that might bring a fine, suspension or all-caps email from the league office.
“Just watch the film. Watch the film. Devin has consistently got a knee in his behind and a shoulder in his back, and I think after a while it gets frustrating.”
The coach’s complaints won’t curry much sympathy outside of Morgantown, for a number of reasons.
First, West Virginia (15-2, 4-1) is tied with Baylor for first place in the league. Front-runners can’t count on compassion.
Then comes the part where West Virginia commits 24.3 fouls per game—third-most in the nation—displaying such relentless trapping, chasing and swiping that opposing fans feel justified in screaming for even more whistles.
Plus, if Williams is being overzealously guarded inside, he isn’t being ignored by officials. His 109 free-throw attempts rank No. 2 in the conference. and he’s not among the top 20 in fouls committed. Still, he played only 12 minutes at TCU because of fouls and 15 against the Sooners—two of the lowest outputs in his 84-game career.
“We’ve just got to keep Devin on the floor,” said Huggins.
At least Williams and West Virginia must not contend with Bevo-sized center Cam Ridley when Texas (11-6, 3-2) visits on Wednesday. The 6-9, 275-pounder (12.7 points, 10 rebounds) has been sidelined since breaking his left in practice Dec. 27 and may not return until late February.
“There’s not as much size, but they’re more mobile,” Williams said. “They’re a better offensive team, stats show, without him as far as scoring the ball and being a better transition team.”
Such is the impact of Isaiah Taylor, whom Huggins flatly calls the best point guard in the conference. The junior compiles 17.2 points and 4.8 assists per game and is the only Big 12 player who gets to the foul line more than Wiliams.
“I like everything about him,” Huggins said. “He understands when people are coming open. He’s the best guy in our league at pushing the ball, and he’s got the best midrange game in our league.”
But will he be able to navigate West Virginia’s press?
“I hope not,” Huggins said.
Tipoff: Wednesday, 7 p.m. in Morgantown (ESPNU)
RPIs: West Virginia 14, Texas 25
Scouting Texas: The Longhorns have committed a combined 19 turnovers during the past three games, whereas West Virginia forces 20.7 per night. … Other starters include guards Javan Felix (10.8 points) and Kendal Yancy (2.6 points) and big men Connor Lammert (6.1 points, 6 rebounds) and Prince Ibex (2.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.6 blocks). … Watch out for freshmen Eric Davis Jr. (8.4 points), Tevin Mack (6.3 points) and Kerwin Roach (5.6 points). … Felix’s career scoring average is 9.3, though West Virginia would swear he’s All-Big 12. Excluding his 2-minute appearance last year in Morgantown (concussion), Felix averages 13.8 points vs. WVU and shoots 47 percent. In 110 other games, Felix has shot 37 percent. “He’s been able to get shots off in the spots where he wants to,” said WVU guard Jaysean Paige. “We can’t let him do it this time.” … The Longhorns own three RPI top-50 wins, highlighted by buzzer-beaters over North Carolina and Stanford. Their worst loss was 58-57 at RPI No. 164 TCU.
WVU trends: WVU has forced 352 turnovers and allowed only 334 baskets, a plus-18 ratio in those categories. How substantial is that? The next-best Big 12 team is minus-151. … The Mountaineers’ likely starters include Jevon Carter (12.2 points, 3.1 rebounds), Daxter Miles (11.1 points, 2.3 rebound), Esa Ahmad (4.6 points, 3.0 rebounds), Jonathan Holton (9.2 points, 7.0 rebounds) and Williams (14.1 points, 8.6 rebounds). … And off the league’s deepest bench roars Paige (13.7 points, 3.8 rebounds), Tarik Phillip (7.6 points, 3.1 assists) and Elijah Macon (6.4 points, 3.8 rebounds). … The Mountaineers are 8-0 at home, whereas Texas is 2-5 outside of Austin.
Line: West Virginia favored by 12.5
Prediction: West Virginia 85-75