Teaching Breaks

West Virginia's basketball team has had two week-long breaks during the month of December. The first came during finals week from Dec 8-15, with the second concluding on Saturday. That schedule has allowed the Mountaineers to conduct some intense and undisturbed practice sessions, which have hopefully prepared them for Saturday's clash with Oklahoma and the upcoming Big East conference season.

Breaks in the slate can be a two-edged sword. The time off can allow for improvement on the practice courts, but it can also dull the edge that is honed by competition. Add in WVU's less than impressive opponent list over the latter half of the month, and the concern that West Virginia might not be ready to play a foe such as the Sooners is a real one. However, head coach Bob Huggins believes the extended breaks have been beneficial for his squad.

"The way our schedule has worked out, we have had a lot of time here without the students," the Mountaineer mentor, who holds a 10-1 mark at his alma mater, noted. "It has been good for us. We have gotten a lot of work in, and we have worked on fixing things we needed to fix. We can spend a lot more time in the gym [with classes] and the students out."

Huggins, who was not please with his team's level of play following the Radford game, was more upbeat after the Canisius contest, even though the Mountaineers were still stagnant in that contest as well. A master motivator, he knows when to step on the gas and when to ease up, and it seems as if that approach is working. Now that WVU is through the winter doldrums of the schedule, he thinks his team is enthusiastically looking forward to the challenges ahead.

"They were good yesterday [in practice]," Huggins noted, "really good. I would anticipate they will be ready to play."

The Mountaineers will have to be ready to do just that, as they will face a front line pair "better than anyone we have faced," according to Huggins. Longar Longar and Blake Griffin will be a big challenge for West Virginia's front line. Longar, who Huggins say while at Kansas State a year ago, has "improved tremendously", while Griffin is "an extremely talented player". Griffin is an all-around talent, leading the Sooners in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and steals. Longar give OU a secondary scoring threat inside that the Mountaineers will be hard pressed to defend. Joe Alexander will likely draw Griffin defensively, with Jamie Smalligan initially matching up against Longar.

WVU squares off against Oklahoma at the Charleston Civic Center on Sat. Dec 29 at 6:00 p.m. The game is televised on ESPN2.

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