MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- That West Virginia beat Loyola of Maryland Monday night at the Coliseum was a surprise to virtually no one. But the extent to which the Mountaineers won and how they did so was rather shocking.
They rebounded, made free throws and, at least when the game was semi-competitive, got their big scoring punch from Kevin Noreen.
It was strange enough, probably, to send Loyola coach G.G. Smith to his cell phone to call his dad, new Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith, with a revised scouting report.
"Oh, yeah, he wanted me to call him right away,'' Smith said after his team was eviscerated by the Mountaineers 96-47. "They're going to surprise some people in the Big 12.''
Well, West Virginia certainly surprised a few people Monday night. Although another sparse crowd (just 4,692) watched, what they saw was a team that took almost every ill it suffered through the first seven games of the season - and to an extent all of last season, as well - and turned them into strengths.
To date, the Mountaineers had ranked next-to-last in the Big 12 in both rebounding margin and free-throw shooting. Nationally they were No. 222 in rebounding margin and No. 296 in foul shooting.
Yet here they were outrebounding Loyola by an almost unfathomable 62-22 and making 19 of 22 free throws.
The free-throw numbers actually weren't all that surprising to Bob Huggins, who has maintained all along that his players make at least 100 a day in practice and it was only a matter of time. And at first, Huggins' explanation for how a team can get 62 rebounds was flippant.
"Miss a lot of shots,'' he said.
But it was obviously more than that.
"Yeah, obviously when we came back from Cancun I wasn't happy with our rebounding,'' Huggins said. "We emphasized it.''
Emphasized it? The Mountaineers' domination on the boards was so complete that they outrebounded the Greyhounds 33-7 on Loyola misses and 29-15 on their own failed shots. And Noreen had perhaps a more pointed explanation.
"No. 1, we made it our goal,'' he said. "And No. 2, it's get rebounds or else.''