Mountaineers down in Mexico 'on business'
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - A few minutes after West Virginia had polished off Presbyterian Saturday afternoon at the Coliseum, Bob Huggins sat down with his team and began looking toward the next item on the agenda.
A day later the Mountaineers would be on a plane headed to Mexico for the two real games in the Cancun Challenge.
"We were talking about what the schedule was down there and what they needed to bring,'' Huggins said. "And Juwan Staten said, 'Listen, everybody understand now, this is a business trip. This isn't a vacation. This is a business trip.'
"We haven't had that in a while.''
It would be good, of course, if the Mountaineers kept that attitude. Because today and Wednesday the competition WVU faces is raised several notches.
First up for West Virginia (4-1) is today's 6 p.m. game against Old Dominion (4-1) in Cancun. Depending upon the outcome, the Mountaineers will then play either No. 12 Wisconsin (6-0) or Saint Louis (5-0) Wednesday at either 7 or 9:30 p.m.
All of the games will be televised by CBS Sports Network.
To date, West Virginia hasn't been challenged in this Cancun Challenge, but that was pretty much by design. WVU, ODU, Wisconsin and Saint Louis each played two games against the other half of the Cancun bracket, which includes Georgia Southern, Presbyterian, Bowling Green and Oral Roberts. Those four teams are also in Cancun playing their own four-team bracket.
West Virginia and today's opponent, Old Dominion, each faced Georgia Southern and Presbyterian last week and won easily. The Mountaineers perhaps had an easier time with the two, winning each by 33 points while ODU beat Presbyterian by 18 points and Georgia Southern by 17.
Regardless of comparative scores, however, the Mountaineers know the competition is about to become much more difficult.
"We're playing against better competition and we've got to be better,'' said sophomore guard Eron Harris. "There's no room for error.''
Indeed, through the first five games of the season West Virginia has generally had plenty of room for error. Save for a disturbing loss at Virginia Tech in which the Mountaineers blew a 17-point first-half lead, WVU has won its four games by an average of 23.5 points. In the last three games, West Virginia has averaged 95 points and is shooting 50.6 percent.
That's a huge departure from a season ago, when WVU averaged just 64 points and shot 41 percent, but Huggins says the difference is pretty easy to pinpoint.
"We have more guys who can make shots,'' Huggins said. "It's really pretty simple. You look like a good offensive coach whenever the ball goes in. When it doesn't go in you don't look so good.''
Making those shots at that rate won't be nearly as easy today and Wednesday and perhaps for the rest of the season. The three other teams in WVU's bracket in Cancun are a combined 15-1. Old Dominion is allowing just 59 points per game in a four-game win streak since opening with a loss to Missouri State.
"We kind of knew we were going to beat up on these two teams,'' freshman forward Devin Williams said after the sweep of Georgia Southern and Presbyterian. "It's not going to be like that now.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.