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NOTEBOOK: Mid-game benching shows Ahmad in Huggins’ dog house

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – Senior forward Esa Ahmad spent the final 33 minutes of West Virginia’s 74-72 win over Jacksonville State glued to the bench – in other words, more than enough time to build a dog house.

After the final buzzer, Bob Huggins provided the material to finish the job.

“I’m just tired of it,” Huggins said. “I’m just tired of having to fight with guys to play the game they say they love.”

The ceremonial cornerstone for Ahmad’s doghouse could be built with the following Huggins quote:

“You should be the first one in the gym, not the last.”

Ahmad entered the game as West Virginia’s leading scorer with 14.8 points per game. He played only four minutes against the Gamecocks, never re-entering the game after the 13:01 mark of the first half.

“I’m kind of at that point where I’m tired of turning the other cheek, so to speak, you know?” Huggins said. “We have a guy that they steal the ball from him and he just stands there. In the past, guys would’ve been running like hell down the floor trying to make a play on the ball so they didn’t come out of the game.”

Huggins said that Saturday was merely the final straw. His ire with Ahmad has been building steadily.

“It wasn’t so much just [Saturday], it was a culmination of a lot of things,” Huggins said. “You can’t turn it over five times a game. You can’t shoot 19 percent from 3 and keep shooting 3s. Maybe one single thing is not such a big deal, but when you start putting everything together, it’s like everything else.”

In other drama…

Huggins doesn’t know when to next expect starting center Sagaba Konate on the floor. Konate has missed the last two games, and three of the last four, with a sore knee.

Following West Virginia’s 83-70 loss to Rhode Island last Sunday, Huggins remarked that Konate’s playing status was “up to him and his brother.”

Huggins sound more sympathetic to the situation on Saturday, though his frustration remains present.

“My concern is we do what’s in Sags best interest, but I’m not a doctor,” Huggins said. “It’s in the hands of the experts and Sags how long it’s going to go on.”

Huggins said Konate’s knee was structurally sound based on three MRIs provided by three different doctors. He also notes that a knee doesn’t necessarily have to be damaged in order for pain to be present.

“All I want to do is make sure Sags gets the support he needs. I know the people here at the University will do what they think is in his best interest, but the final deal is Sags,” Huggins said. “He knows his body. He knows what his knee feels like. We don’t know what it feels like.”

Long-distance dedication

West Virginia shot 50 percent or better from 3-point range for the second time this season, hitting 12 of 24 shots from beyond the arc. Most of the damage was done by Wesley Harris and Lamont West, who were a combined 8-for-10.

Jacksonville State coach Ray Harper admitted that he did not see that coming.

“We came in here, and I wouldn’t have anticipated them going 12-for-24 from the 3 and they did,” Harper said. “If they do that, you shake their hand and say ‘Good game.’”

WVU was shooting 32.6 percent from beyond the arc this season. The Mountaineers best performance was against Saint Joseph’s, when they were 15 of 29.

Hall worthy?

The Basketball Hall of Fame announced that Huggins is a candidate for induction on Saturday morning. It’s his second straight year on the ballot. Huggins is one of 22 coaches on this year’s ballot from both the NBA and collegiate levels.

Huggins has 852 career wins in 37 seasons.





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