After getting pounded by Florida 88-71 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge over the weekend, West Virginia is about to jump from the frying pan back into the fire of conference play with three straight matchups against ranked teams. First up is a trip to Hilton Coliseum and a date with the 13th-ranked Iowa State Cyclones Tuesday night.
West Virginia has fallen to Iowa State in three consecutive trips to Ames, and a big reason for that has been the play of senior forward Georges Niang.
"He's been one of the premiere players in our league for four years now. He presents problems for everybody," Huggins said. "He can score, he creates for other people, he rebounds the ball offensively. He creates a lot of things."
Niang is putting up his typical healthy stat line once again this season, averaging 19 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game for head coach Steve Prohm, who is in his first year taking over for program mainstay Fred Hoiberg.
If West Virginia wants to contain Niang and the explosive Cyclones offense, which ranks 12th in the country in points per game, the Mountaineers will need to be much more efficient on defense than they were during their loss to the Gators Saturday.
Part of that comes with a better performance in the aspect of play that has elevated West Virginia to a Big 12 contender this year: the press.
West Virginia’s press was less effective without its spearhead against Florida, Jonathan Holton, than it had been all year. Huggins said a change of philosophy is out of the question at this advanced stage of game preparation, and that the players that are plugged in just need to find a way to up their level of play.
“I don’t think we can change anything," Huggins said. "We just have to put someone else in that spot. We can’t make, at this point in time, wholesale changes with only two days of prep for every game."
A below average defensive performance isn’t the only thing that doomed West Virginia on Saturday though. The offensive struggles that have bothered the Mountaineers all year - namely streaky shooting and turnovers - also played a major role in determining the outcome.
Against a team as offensively efficient as Iowa State is, Huggins said there are several areas in which the Mountaineers will have to improve to have a chance to go on the road and take down the Cyclones.
“We can shoot the ball better, that’s for sure. We can shoot it better from the field and the foul line. We haven’t shot it very well from the foul line, haven't shot it very well from the field here as of late. I would say we have to shoot the ball better,” he said.
“They make them in practice. Generally, when you make them in practice you can make them in the game - although that hasn’t happened as much as we would like for it to this year. But I think we have played hard. I think they have given us good effort."