"Our biggest job was just to defend them,'' said point guard Juwan Staten, who not only made the winning layup with 5 seconds to play (his only field goal of the game), but stayed in the face of Tech's Erick Green (the nation's No. 2 individual scorer) and was a big reason he didn't hit his potential game-winner at the buzzer. "I don't think they'd been guarded like that before.''
No, Tech had seldom been guarded closely or aggressively this season during a 7-0 start. The Hokies were shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor (48.3), but shot just 41.5 percent against West Virginia, a season low.
That's about the norm for West Virginia opponents through seven games (41.3 percent) and it will likely have to continue if the Mountaineers are going to win games.
Of course, offensively WVU has to get something going and eventually will. There are too many decent shooters on the roster to continue shooting under 40 percent as a team, but the Mountaineers probably are going to have to use their defense and rebounding to generate points.
They did part of that against Virginia Tech by getting 23 offensive rebounds, but they have yet to begin using that defense to score easy baskets, which was something Huggins has tried to emphasize since the start of practice. That defense forced Tech into five turnovers in the first 15 minutes Saturday, but then just one more after that.
Afterward, Huggins wasn't complaining about the lack of offense generated by defense, but he knows that eventually that has to begin happening. For now, though, having a defense that simply shuts opponents down even without forcing turnovers is enough.
BRIEFLY: West Virginia has a short turnaround for its next game. The Mountaineers face Duquesne (5-4) Tuesday night at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. The Dukes beat New Orleans, 88-70, Saturday, three days after losing by 21 to Pitt.
After that comes Saturday night's game with Michigan at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. John Beilein's team is 9-0, ranked No. 3 in the polls, No. 2 in the Rating Percentage Index and has the ninth-toughest schedule according to the RPI.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1