|Guard Terry Henderson has played in six of seven games so far this year and shows averages of 7.8 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.
|All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia did just about what everybody expected it would do down in Mexico last week in the Triple Crown Cancun Challenge – beat Old Dominion and lose to 10th-ranked Wisconsin – everybody that is except for Coach Bob Huggins.
“I thought we could win, honestly,” said Huggins Sunday before his team’s afternoon workout at the Coliseum [Listen to Huggins' Sunday presser
]. “We’ve obviously got to rebound it better, but I would never imagine as well as we shoot the ball that we couldn’t make free throws.”
The 5-2 Mountaineers were 6 of 14 from the line against the Badgers and are shooting just 64.2 percent from the charity stripe this year, compared to their 50.2 overall shooting percentage from the floor through the first seven games of the season.
There were occasions against Wisconsin when West Virginia could have made it a one-possession game, but the Mountaineers couldn’t make the key plays when they needed to.
“We were within four points twice and we didn’t execute,” said guard Eron Harris
. “They went down and hit big shots because they executed. They had more veterans on the floor that have played in big games (than West Virginia has right now).”
Harris said the team got together after the game to have a player’s-only meeting to get things ironed out before hitting a stretch of important non-conference games coming up in the next couple of weeks.
“(Wisconsin) was a big game for us, a big game for Remi (Dibo) and a big game for a lot of our teammates who haven’t played on that level,” Harris said. “Some of the young guys have been forced to get out there and play and that was a learning experience for them. Now we can go into these other games and learn how to play the whole game like we’ve said – and I think everybody is getting better at it.”
For Huggins, the coach says he is still searching for that guy who can score close to the rim when the team needs critical baskets.
“We’ve got to be able to throw it inside a little bit,” he said. “We’ve got to find somebody inside we can throw it to. Probably Devin (Williams) is the leading candidate, but to this point we haven’t been able to do that very well.”
Huggins is also looking for sophomore guard Terry Henderson
to get back into a rhythm the way he played at times last season. Harris and Juwan Staten
accounted for 45 of West Virginia’s 63 points against Wisconsin, while Henderson failed to score in only 10 minutes of action.
Henderson has the ability to be a dangerous No. 3 scoring option for the Mountaineers when he’s on.
“He’s a great kid and he’s probably trying too hard to kind of get back, but there is nothing like reps,” said Huggins. “You’ve got to have reps and it’s got to be comfortable. You’ve got to feel like you’re in the flow and he’s not in the flow.”
Henderson shows averages of 7.8 points and 2.3 rebounds per game while shooting 45.7 percent from the floor. Last year, the guard was the top 3-point shooter in the Big 12 but so far this season he is hitting just 31.6 percent of his triples through six games. He did not play the season opener against Mount St. Mary’s while nursing a shin injury.
“Really, good scorers they’ll miss 10 and think they are going to make the next 10 and Terry’s not that way,” said Huggins. “(Terry) gives us that other guy that everybody’s got to guard, though. He can make shots and he may be our best offensive rebounder. He gives us that other dimension that we really haven’t had.”
Hopefully, Henderson can find the bottom of the net on a regular basis Monday night against a pretty good Loyola team that lost by just 10 at Connecticut last Tuesday night.
The Greyhounds (4-1) are making the jump from the MAAC to the Patriot Conference this season under first-year coach G.G. Smith, son of standout Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith.
Loyola is a guard-oriented team with one of the nation’s top scorers in 6-foot-3-inch senior Dylon Cormier, averaging 28.4 points per game to rank second in the country behind Niagara guard Antoine Mason’s 31.4 points per game average. The Baltimore resident has been Loyola’s top scorer in all five games this year, including a season-high 34 twice in victories against Cornell and UMBC.
“We’ve played against pretty good players,” said Huggins. “We team-guard everybody. We’ll put somebody on him and let him accept the challenge.”
The player accepting the challenge will most likely be Harris, at least initially.
“When you look at who we’ve got coming down the road, if we can’t (guard the opposing team’s top scorer) then it’s going to be a long year,” said Huggins.
“They’re good, but you know, we’ve got this one and then we go to Missouri and then Marshall, Purdue and it doesn’t stop,” said Huggins. “Our approach has been you’re going to have to guard good people so accept the challenge. That’s been a struggle for our freshmen. They maybe don’t think they have to step up to that challenge as much as they need to, but I think our upperclassmen are good at it.”
With a victory against Loyola, Huggins can move into a tie with Norm Stewart and Jerry Tarkanian for 16th place on the NCAA Division I all-time wins list. Huggins currently has 728 career victories heading into Monday night’s game.
Tip off is set for 7 p.m.