By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
February 28, 2010
WEST VIRGINIA GAME NOTES | GEORGETOWN GAMES NOTES
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - His team trailing Cincinnati by 13 points in the first half of Saturday's game, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins went to his bench looking for a little help. He had just watched the five guys on the floor get beat down the floor for an uncontested layup and he had seen enough.
||Kevin Jones celebrates scoring two of his team-high 15 points during West Virginia's 74-68 win over Cincinnati on Saturday.
All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo
"I just can't stand people playing harder than us," Huggins said. "We got beat twice in transition and we didn't make a great effort to get back. If I would have kept the same group in and we would have kept getting beat in transition, we would have been down 20 at the half."
One of the five players in Huggins' line change was junior forward Cam Thoroughman, who responded with a pair of free throws and a three-point play to key a nine-point run to get the Mountaineers back into the game. Thoroughman, who did something similar two years ago when West Virginia knocked off ninth-ranked Duke in the second round of the NCAA tournament, finished the game with a season-high 7 points.
"He's played really well in practice," said Huggins. "We've tried to get the two big young kids some time, particularly Deniz, and I told Cam a couple of days ago, 'Man you're going to have to play.' He's made shots in practice."
Thoroughman's foul line jumper with 6:05 left in the first half was one of the few he has even tried outside of the paint this year.
"I told him if they jump off of you go ahead and shoot it in," said Huggins. "Don't hesitate, just jump up and shoot it in and he did. They backed off of him and he jumped up and made it."
Thoroughman gave the Mountaineers a lift when they really needed it. Plus, he's starting to make some free throws, which will keep him in games even longer.
"I think Cam is playing really well right now. He's obviously so undersized but he competes so hard. If he can step out and make shots, and he can get to the free throw line, now he has a chance to make some," said Huggins. "For two years he had no chance. It was like run the missed free throw play when Cam was up there. He's really worked hard at it and you've really got to give him a lot of credit."
Believe it or not, Huggins said the 6-foot-7, 240-pound Thoroughman was actually recruited to play guard by the previous coaching staff.
"He told me they recruited him as a guard. I said, 'Well, they're gone. That ain't going to happen. That's not in the cards for you,'" Huggins laughed. "Cam's got toughness. He'll stick his nose in there and he'll put a body on you. He hasn't played a whole lot in his career but he's been really positive and he's good to be around."
Huggins was also pleased with the seven minutes he got from freshman forward Danny Jennings, who continues to show signs of beginning to understand what he's supposed to do when he's out on the floor.
Jennings made a huge put-back basket midway through the second half to get the Mountaineers to within four of the Bearcats. Huggins said he sat down with Jennings in his office a few weeks ago and had a heart-to-heart with his promising freshman.
"I told Danny about 3 ½ weeks ago - he came in and I don't want to say he was pouting, but he wasn't as enthusiastic as usual and I told him, 'Danny, I can promise you this. The guys that really work get better and when you get better you get to play. The guys that pout don't get better and they get to sit down there and pass the water up,'" Huggins said. "He's responded really well. He's been really, really good in practice."
West Virginia (22-6, 11-5) is going to need all hands on deck Monday night against a Georgetown team backed against the wall after losing 78-64 at home to Notre Dame Saturday afternoon. The Hoyas' top scorer, Austin Freeman, was sick and managed to score just 5 points in 23 minutes of action.
Notre Dame, too, was without its best player, Luke Harangody, who continues to be sidelined with a bone bruise to his knee.
Center Greg Monroe led four double figure scorers with 15 points. Georgetown (19-8, 9-7) plays predominantly a seven-man rotation with the bulk of the scoring coming from its starting five of Freeman, Monroe, Chris Wright, Jason Clark and Julian Vaughn.
Freeman and 6-foot-11 sophomore center Monroe has Huggins concerned, as does another one-day prep for the Hoyas. It's the third time West Virginia has had to do that this month.
"It's really hard the people that we've played," Huggins explained. "Villanova doesn't play like the rest of us. Georgetown doesn't play like the rest of us. The Connecticut game … we certainly maybe could-have, should-have won it. To have to turn around now and practice some (Sunday), still have enough legs to play on Monday, and figure out how to guard the Princeton offense is hard because that will be the first time we've seen it all year."
Huggins says what makes Georgetown's system so difficult to defend are the players the Hoyas have running it.
"It's a lot easier when you don't have as many good players as they've got. It's like any other offense - the better your players the better the offense," Huggins said. "You can't let them back cut you and you can't let them get a bunch of easy scores. And then they slip a lot of screens and step back."
When the Hoyas are hitting their outside shots, Huggins says that makes defenses even more susceptible to back cuts.
"They get you up so high and you have to go with them because if you don't they make shots," Huggins explained. "They are the best team I've ever seen at throwing the pass real late. You kind of think, OK, I guarded him and then you relax and they throw it underneath your hand.
"We're trying to figure it out."
Tip off for Monday's game is 7 p.m. ESPN will televise the contest nationally.
Saturday's game against Cincinnati was the 10th time this year West Virginia has fallen behind by a double-digit margin. The Mountaineers are 5-5 in those games.
Seniors Da'Sean Butler, Wellington Smith and Cam Payne will make one final walk out on the carpet Monday night. Also being recognized will be senior manager Corey Barill and senior athletic trainer Jason Coleman.
Butler needs 86 points to become only the school's third 2,000-point scorer. Jerry West (2,309) and Hot Rod Hundley (2,180) are the other two.
West Virginia's Big East tournament scenario is pretty simple - win Monday night against Georgetown and the Mountaineers will earn a double bye awarded to one of the top four teams in the conference. A win would also give West Virginia its most regular season conference wins since joining the Big East in 1996. Three previous times in 2008, 2006, 1998 and 1997 the Mountaineers also won 11 Big East games.
West Virginia is now 52-32 in Big East regular season play since 2006.
West Virginia is poised to set a school attendance mark on Monday night against Georgetown. The Mountaineers are going to best the school record for average attendance (11,384 set in 1982) and total home attendance (170,762 also set in 1982). West Virginia presently shows an average of 12,313 and a total attendance figure of 160,070 after Saturday's game against Cincinnati.
Bob Huggins with his 71st win on Saturday passed the late George King for the most victories through the first three seasons as a WVU coach. King had 70 victories in his first three years on the Mountaineer bench in 1961, 1962 and 1963.
West Virginia, Pitt and Marquette are the only three programs to have winning seasons in Big East play in each of the last five seasons. Marquette extended its streak on Sunday with an overtime win at Seton Hall.