Boeheim, Huggins Meet For First Time

West Virginia returns to the Coliseum hoping to even it's league record to 2-2 with a win over a young but talented group of Syracuse Orange.

It really is hard to believe that two of college basketball's most recognized figures, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim and West Virginia's Bob Huggins, have never matched wits before.

The men have combined for 58 years of collegiate coaching, and 1,846 games coached. Their combined record in those 1,846 games? A jaw-dropping 1363-483. That's a winning percentage of 73.8 for those of you keeping score at home.

Yet with so many games, and so many wins, neither of these men holds an advantage over the other. During Huggins's senior season as a Mountaineer player in 1976-77, West Virginia and Syracuse split a pair of games during the year. That also happened to be Boeheim's first season as Syracuse's head coach.

"He's a really good coach, and a really good guy," Huggins said of his Cuse counterpart. "He's done some wonderful things with Coaches vs. Cancer and trying to help people. He's a really good guy."

This afternoon inside the WVU Coliseum, Huggins is hoping to send that really good guy home with a second consecutive Big East road loss. During the brief Big East season so far, the resounding theme has been the dominance of the home court advantage in league play. Since Big East play opened on January 1 – ironically with a road win by Cincinnati at Louisville – home teams are 22-6 against league opponents.

While it certainly isn't unexpected or out of the norm for home teams to have a winning record in league play, the early dominance has sent waves throughout the conference that road wins may be even harder to come by in the Big East than they have been in past years.

Huggins feels that the perception of tough road games is really nothing more than that, and expects his team to play its best ball no matter what gym the game happens to be in.

"I'm a little bit skewed," Huggins said Saturday. "We won so much (at Cincinnati) that we were the one team that did win on the road. I think it's a mentality. We fought that a year ago at Kansas State when they didn't think they had a chance to win. They responded by winning away from home."

The way Huggins sees it, the issue is not at all where you play but rather how you play. In road losses to Louisville and Notre Dame, the Mountaineers have not played well at all, especially on offense.

"We've got to shoot the ball better," Huggins said. "We've got to do a better job of shot selection. We've got to score some transition baskets. I don't think we've made one since begin starting Big East play.

"Defensively, we did enough to win (at Louisville)," he continued. "But we just didn't score enough points. Then compound that with the fact that we need to do a better job offensively."

Perhaps, then, there is no better medicine right now for the Mountaineers than Syracuse. Boeheim has stated throughout the season that as good as the Orange are offensively, he is hoping to see more on the defensive end of the court. Look no further than the defensive strategy employed by the Hall of Famer for much of the year.

Normally a team which relies heavily on Boeheim's patented 2-3 zone, the Orange have reverted to playing much more man-to-man than anytime in recent memory, and have even unveiled a diamond press in an effort to force miscues before letting teams get into their halfcourt offense.

While the defensive philosophy may be a bit different in comparison to past seasons, one thing that hasn't changed is the talent level. As always, Boeheim has a bevy of weapons at his disposal, even with season-ending knee injuries to junior guards Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins.

Freshman forward Donte Green, a Baltimore native, is arguably the most talented Syracuse player since some guy named Carmelo Anthony was carrying the Orange to the 2003 national championship. Following in the legacy of previous Boeheim blue-chippers such as Anthony and Pearl Washington, Green has stepped into a starting role right away, and currently leads the Big East in scoring at 19.4 points per game. Many feel that the 6-10 forward will be one and done, but the bad news for Mountaineer fans is that the NBA likely won't be moving its draft up early enough to keep Green from being a factor against the Mountaineers.

"I think Green is a for sure first round pick and probably a lottery pick," said Huggins, who knows a thing or two about NBA-ready talent having sent more than a dozen of his former players on to the league which bares the silhouette of WVU great Jerry West on its insignia. "I think he's can't miss good."

Freshman point guard Jonny Flynn, sophomore forward Paul Harris and junior big man Arinze Onuaku are also dangerous players for the visitors, as each has the ability to take over the game on the offensive end of the court.

"(Syracuse) has some great players and he does a good job with them," Huggins said. "We're just going to do what we do best."

Which Huggins and the Mountaineers hope will be enough for the program's first win over Syracuse in nearly seven years


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