Huggins ready for different challenge vs. VT

It’s been a few years since a Buzz Williams-coached team came into the Coliseum to take on West Virginia.

That showdown against Marquette in the Mountaineers’ final season in the Big East Conference ending with the Golden Eagles coming away with a 61-60 victory and Williams dancing across the floor toward his postgame interview as Country Roads played throughout the arena.

But when WVU and Williams’ new team, Virginia Tech, square off in the Mountaineers’ final non-conference game of the season, a good bit will have changed between both teams since last season when the Hokies came back from more than 20 points down to beat West Virginia in Blacksburg.

“We lived and died by the jump shot so much, and we stopped making jump shots,” Huggins said Sunday, reflecting on last year’s loss to the Hokies. “We tightened up a little bit because it was early in the year. That’s the great thing about not depending on making shots.

“You can always keep defending and you can always keep rebounding.”

Now that the new coaching staff has arrived at Tech this season, things have changed a bit with Virginia Tech as well. The Hokies (8-4) are shooting nearly 42 percent from the beyond the arc, but they are much more focused on getting the ball into the paint and getting buckets that way.

As a whole this season, Virginia Tech has taken 43.5 percent of its total shot attempts at the rim.

“Their whole philosophy is what Buzz’s philosophy has been since he’s been a coach,” Huggins said. “They try to drive it in the paint. They want to drive and kick it out, drive and score and drive into the paint and draw fouls. They count paint touches and he has a set amount that he thinks they should try to attain every game. He puts a lot more emphasis on attacking the rim than he does shooting threes.”

With the different style of play and the Hokies often being in attack mode offensively, it’ll be a good challenge for West Virginia (11-1) as the No. 18 Mountaineers prepare for one last test before beginning Big 12 Conference play.

“It’s a new staff, a different style. Buzz will do a great job there. They’re constantly in attack mode, so they going to keep coming at you,” Huggins said. “A lot of it has to do with your talent and your skill level. They’re, at times, going to play with four guards and, obviously, four guards are a lot harder to press than three or two are.

“I think it’ll be good for us. It’s a game that will make us better, it will make us make adjustments and try to do different things. It’s good for us.”

With conference play looming, a lot of teams use these next few games to shorten its rotation and prepare to head into conference play with a slightly different rotation than what they had been using early in the season leading up to that point.

For Huggins, who has used as many as 13 players in his main rotation at times this season, that is likely not going to be the case. With the style that West Virginia plays and the way they pressure teams full-court for 40 minutes, the veteran head coach sees no reason to change what they have done so far.

“We’re going to play as many as we need to play. We’re not planning on tightening up the rotation at all,” he said. “I like what we’re doing.”

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