Huggins: WVU back to loving to play

Following West Virginia's win against Texas Tech this weekend, Mountaineer head coach Bob Huggins discussed the leadership on this year's version of the WVU basketball team.

It's easy for the veteran coach to tell that, after a few seasons where this wasn't the case and he had to watch his team suffer because of it, basketball is back to being the most important thing in his players' lives.

On Monday, during the Big 12 coaches teleconference, Huggins reiterated that fact once again as he talked about the No. 15 Mountaineers prior to their trip to Norman, Okla., to take on the Sooners.

During WVU's resurgence this season, the Mountaineers have been able to get everyone to play together and use its deep bench to play as many as 13 players on a consistent basis. Something that has become easier to do this year thanks to the fact that West Virginia's players have bought in with what Huggins wants them to do.

"From the beginning, what we tried to sell them was the fact that everyone can play and have an opportunity to play," Huggins said. "I wanted them to play as hard as they could play. Our rule is and always has been, if I take you out for not playing hard, you won't get back in there."

That was a lesson that the Mountaineers had to learn the hard way all too often the last couple of seasons. For Huggins, it's been refreshing to not have to worry about pounding it back into their heads that they have to play hard every day in practice.

"In the last few years before this one, I've had to coach effort and when you have to coach effort it's hard to coach basketball," Huggins said. "It's hard to go in every day to try to get guys to play hard.

"These guys have been great because they work hard and they care. They're in the gym and want to get better. They care."

With 10 games remaining in the regular season, the Mountaineers have already surpassed last year's win total and sit at second in the Big 12 with an 18-3 overall record and a 6-2 mark in conference play. But things are going to get tougher down the stretch as seven of those games, including Tuesday's matchup against OU, will come against teams ranked in the Associated Press top 25 and nine of West Virginia's last 10 will be against teams in the top 35 of the RPI.

The fact that West Virginia's roster is largely made up of players who are new to the program and haven't been part of the teams that struggled to consistently bring the level of energy needed to succeed every game could help this team down the stretch.

"They just love playing. I think that's the thing," Huggins said. "We have seven guys that it's their first year playing for us and they all love to play. We don't always shoot it real well, but we play hard. We play extremely hard because we're extremely competitive."

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