The Memories Remain

Bob Huggins' tenure as head basketball coach at Cincinnati ended in a less-than-ideal manner. But even as the years have passed and Huggins has taken jobs at Kansas State and, ultimately, West Virginia, the head coach's affection for his long-time home is still very much apparent.

Huggins has gotten a bit of extra time to spend in the Queen City thanks to a change in his Mountaineers' travel schedule. The basketball team did not return to Morgantown after its loss to Louisville on Wednesday night. Instead, it bused to Cincinnati on Thursday and held a Friday practice for Saturday's game with the Bearcats.

Just after that practice, Huggins spoke to the media on a conference call. He was surrounded by reminders of his 16 years at UC.

"I come back in here and there's several of my former players here right now," Huggins said. "You look up on this wall back here, and you look at the conference championships and the NCAA Tournaments and the Sweet 16s and the Final Four and the Elite Eights. We had a good run here.

"I have some very dear friends here. And the truth of the matter is the people here in town were always extremely supportive. So you're always going to have a feeling, but we're coming in here to win a game. All that stuff goes out the window when you get ready to throw it up."

And if Huggins and West Virginia hope to avoid a third loss in four games, the head coach will have to hope his team can do more offensively than it did in Wednesday night's 55-54 setback at U of L's new KFC Yum! Center.

The Mountaineers (13-6, 4-3) struggled to score in the second half of that game. The Cardinals played a packed-in zone defense, daring WVU to make jump shots. It couldn't do so, and so Louisville came back from an 11-point deficit in the second half to win.

Huggins doesn't know how to explain his team's shooting woes -- either Wednesday night or in the 2010-11 season as a whole.

"When you think about a year ago and how well Kevin Jones shot the 3-ball -- I think he led us in 3-point field goal percentage. Now he's shooting 27 percent," Huggins said. "Some of that, they're guarding him a little more, but if you've seen the games, you've seen he's had pretty good looks. Truck [Bryant] has shot it very poorly -- very, very poorly. But Truck's had days where he shoots it really well. Ironically, probably our most consistent guy shooting the ball has been John Flowers.

"I don't know. I think that's why you always have to guard and rebound. It gives you a chance to win. It puts a lot of pressure on your defense, that's for sure. I'm like everybody else: I like to see the ball go in the hoop when it's our guys. But at the same regard, we've got to give ourselves a chance by defending and rebounding. I think by and large, we've done that."

But Cincinnati (18-3, 5-3) statistically has done an even better job. It leads the Big East Conference in scoring defense, allowing opponents only 56.4 points per game -- 5.5 points per contest better than second-place Villanova.

That means WVU will again likely need somebody to step up and provide a lift offensively in the way Joe Mazzulla did against Louisville, scoring a career-high 18 points in the first half alone.

"We need to score more than 54, I think," Huggins said dryly.

"I think [The Bearcats] are good. They don't get too spread, and they try to make you score over top of them. They've got great size. They've got great depth. He plays a lot of people. But it's hard to score over size."


  • Apparently, UC coach Mick Cronin told Cincinnati-area media he would be preparing his team as if suspended Mountaineer guard Casey Mitchell would be suiting up and playing.

    That's a notion Huggins dispelled.

    "It's kind of like I told one of the TV stations: I probably know more about Casey's status than Mick does, I would guess," the head coach quipped. "He's not on the trip. He's not playing."

  • Mitchell's suspension and the departure of center Dan Jennings left Huggins with a limited bench for the Louisville loss. He played only seven players, and a mere 10 suited up.

    That means more playing time for the starters, and it also means Huggins has to adjust the way he runs his practices.

    "We don't go as much full-court, because they get running in during the games. I mean, we're playing every third day. We go a lot more half-court," Huggins said. "We cut it back today. We only ran two hours today. I think we're going to be like this the rest of the year.

    "Really, when you have guys play as heavy minutes as what ours are playing, you can't run them into the ground ... All you've got to do is look around. We're probably not going to play [walk-ons] Kenny Ross or Craig Carey at forward. That's about all we have left."

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