But the Mountaineers have gone 4-1 since that Oklahoma State loss, against the most difficult stretch of its schedule to date, WITHOUT shooting lights-out. There was one exception, when WVU shot 54 percent and made 13 3-pointers in eviscerating Iowa State Monday night, 102-77, but all that did was skew those five-game numbers a bit. In the previous four games (three of them wins), West Virginia shot 40, 43, 39 and 39 percent.
The point is, earlier in the season Huggins was right. This team did have to shoot well to win, in part because it's a team built around shooters (save for Juwan Staten), but also because it wasn't capable of doing a lot of other things well.
Now it is, which is what Huggins was saying would happen all along.
"We've got a bunch of young guys, and our guys that aren't young haven't been here very long except for Kevin Noreen,'' Huggins said of a nine-man rotation that includes three freshmen (Devin Williams, Brandon Watkins, Nathan Adrian), two sophomores (Eron Harris, Terry Henderson), a first-year junior college transfer (Remi Dibo), a second-year junior transfer (Staten) and a fourth-year junior (Noreen).
"I think their understanding is getting better. We just had a ton of new guys. They tried. I never sat here and said they didn't try. They've tried. They've tried all year. It's just the more and more you coach them, the better and better their background is. So they start to understand things better.''
There are still, of course, shortcomings. No one is pretending that because West Virginia is playing well that it is on the verge of becoming some sort of juggernaut. The issue of depending upon the limited Noreen and two freshmen as the inside game won't magically improve this season. Shooting percentages notwithstanding, there will also be nights when even 45 percent of the shots won't fall. Foul trouble can be a killer for this team, too, not to mention the not-so-small matter of playing four of the final six games of the regular season against teams in the top 30 of the RPI.
And, too, perhaps ultimately the improvement came too late. West Virginia dug itself quite a hole as far as reaching the NCAA tournament is concerned by not winning a single non-conference game that really mattered.
"I bet you we could take a poll here and most people would say we wouldn't lose those now,'' Huggins said. "We're a lot better. We were young. I tried to tell you guys that. We'll get better.''
The last five games have proven him right on that.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1