"When I was at Cincinnati, our guards couldn't shoot it," Huggins said. "And finally I got tired of them missing and I just said ‘Why don't you guys go rebound it and let the bigs shoot? They can't miss any more.' And our bigs started to make shots and we changed to where they shot it a lot more."
Noreen scored a career-high 14 points on six of 10 shooting – including two of three from 3-point range – in the 68-67 win over previously undefeated Virginia Tech (7-1). He also added 12 rebounds, while Murray had 15 points with the exact same shooting stats from the field and 3-point range. Overall, WVU has made just 30 of 111 3-pointers, with 10 of those coming against the Hokies.
"Kevin (Noreen) hadn't shot the ball in practice," Huggins said. "If he can step into shots and make shots the way he did the other day, he better shoot them. I think the same way with Aaric. … I thought Aaric could shoot it from out there. I thought Aaric's problem early on was conditioning. He couldn't make a three-footer, you know, much less shoot it from a distance. He has gotten in much better shape. He stayed afterwards (following Sunday's practice) without anybody saying anything to him and ran. I think Aaric is very capable of making shots. As Kevin Noreen alluded to, he's the third-leading three-point shooter in the history of Minnesota (high school) basketball. So he has the ability to make shots. He hasn't since he has been here, but he is capable. I'm all for it. They can't miss any more than our guards have. …
"You don't want to take a shot that's going to give them a fast break at the other end. But as long as they are within the context of what you are trying to do (it's fine). We may be better off having those guys shoot and our guards rebound. I've always thought Aaric Murray could make those. I'd never seen Kevin Noreen shoot them. It was as much a surprise to me as it was anybody else."
The scoring was a huge boost to West Virginia's chances for the upset. Tech packed the interior and refused to allow Deniz Kilicli to take uncontested shots. The shooting, should it continue, will force teams to play a more true, straight-up defense and not sag on the inside. That obviously opens easier chances for Kilicli inside and should give the guards more space into which to penetrate and perhaps finish, as Juwan Staten was able to do for the game-winning lay-in.
Huggins, whose team faces Duquesne (5-4) at the Consol Energy Center on Wednesday at 7 p.m., noted that West Virginia has made solid strides in overall play. The Mountaineers (4-3) were completely shut down in the opener atGonzaga, then allowed an undersized Davidson team to beat them 63-60 in a mild upset prior to also dropping a winnable game against Oklahoma, 77-70. The team, even in the latter stages against both the Bulldogs and Sooners, seemed to show more hustle and desire on defense, and that intensity remained for the entire 40 minutes against both Marshall and Virginia Tech.
"I think we are rebounding the ball better. I think we are defending it better. I think we are at least making an effort to run offense now," Huggins said. "Before the Marshall game we were standing there and (assistant coach) Ronny Everhart said ‘You know, Huggs, I know they frustrate you at times, but if you look out here there's really not a lot of experience in the way we play.' We brought in Matt Humphrey, who was a five-year guy from Boston College. And, of course, Aaric (Murray) didn't practice much last year because he broke his hand. We are playing a bunch of guys that don't have much experience."
Now, after serving a six-game suspension, West Virginia also gets 6-10, 240-pound sophomore Volodymyr Gerun. How he works in will be intriguing. The Mountaineers have played eight players in all seven games, one player in six games and two others in five games. And of those 11 players, none has played less than 54 minutes, meaning Huggins has spread time around and given players a chance to prove their worth. Gerun figures to see some time against the Dukes should West Virginia have a solid lead, but when and how much the Ukraine native can help is an unknown.
"We are hoping to get him in some games here," Huggins said. "He can start to learn. We have been spending a lot more time with him in practice. It's a lot to learn in a very short period of time, particularly when you can't focus on him."