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Getting to know West Virginia
That sneaky Bob Huggins. West Virginia's men's basketball coach must have chuckled to himself when his Mountaineers were picked seventh in the Big 12 preseason poll.
Huggy, the third-winningest active coach in college basketball (737 career victories) probably kept laughing inwardly during the non-conference schedule, as outsiders continued to write off WVU because of its early-season struggles.
All the while, West Virginia kept improving. Now here we are a week into February and the Mountaineers, though 14-9 overall, are in third place in the Big 12 with a 6-4 record — the same mark held by Oklahoma, the No. 21-ranked team that lost at WVU, 91-86, in overtime on Wednesday.
The victory over OU was just the latest in a string of key victories for West Virginia, which has won four of its last five games, beating Texas Tech, Baylor and Kansas State before knocking off the Sooners.
Three-point shooting and precise offense have made WVU's Big 12 success possible heading into Saturday's game at Allen Fieldhouse against No. 8 Kansas (17-5, 8-1).
In conference games, the Mountaineers have made 75 of their 206 three-pointers (36.4%). Their turnover numbers are even more impressive. Through 10 Big 12 games, WVU has averaged just 9.8 giveaways a game, compared to 13.7 for its opponents (West Virginia averages 7.0 steals a game, too). That's a Big 12-best turnover margin of + 3.9 a game.
When the Mountaineers miss long jumpers, they tend to track some down. They average 12.1 offensive boards a game in Big 12 play.
Nothing would make Huggy Bear happier Saturday than beating Kansas for the first time in his 21 seasons as a head coach — Huggins lost both games against the Jayhawks last season, went 0-3 vs. KU when he coached at Kansas State and lost to Kansas once as Cincinnati's head coach.
Let's meet the players who will try to help Huggins end his losing streak against the Jayhawks.
Juwan Staten, No. 3
6-1, 190, jr. guard
As the above clip proves, Staten is the most explosive player in a West Virginia uniform. Not only does he jump out of the gym, but he averages 18.1 points a game (second in the Big 12 to Melvin Ejim, Iowa State, 18.3) and 6.0 rebounds. Six rebounds. At 6-foot-1.
In Big 12 play, he's been even better, averaging a league-best 20.4 points and making 53% of his shots (second in the Big 12 to Thomas Gibson, K-State, 58%).
He rarely hurts WVU with his decisions, either. Staten dishes 5.5 assists a game in conference action (second in Big 12 to DeAndre Kane, Iowa State, 5.8), and he has one or fewer turnovers in 17 of his last 30 games, dating back to last year.
Much to the dismay of opposing coaches, Staten basically never leaves the court. He leads the Big 12 in minutes played at 37.4 a game. Amazingly, in conference games, he averages more than 40 minutes — 40.2 — because WVU has played two overtime games.
Really, the only thing he doesn't do is make three-pointers — 5-for-14 this season.
Eron Harris, No. 10
6-3, 195, so. guard
If you watched the highlights in the intro from the Oklahoma game, you noticed a common audio refrain: "Eron Harris … for three!" He drilled 6 of 13 from deep against the Sooners.
Harris carries nearly as much of the scoring load as Staten. KU coach Bill Self said the two combine to form arguably the best backcourt in the Big 12.
Slightly bigger than his running mate, at 6-foot-3, Harris averages 17.5 points and 3.7 rebounds. He leads WVU with 64 three-pointers and a success rate of 42.7%.
Terry Henderson, No. 15
6-4, 200, so. guard
The third guard in the Mountaineers' starting lineup, Henderson averages 12.5 points a game and has produced double digits in 13 of his last 16 games.
He's not as lethal as Harris from behind the arc, but he has made 37 threes this season. He scored 17 points against OU, behind 3-for-8 shooting from three-point distance and going 4-for-4 at the foul line, where he shoots 83.6% on the year.
Devin Williams, No. 5
6-9, 255, fr. forward
A true interior player — a rarity in this lineup — Williams is the only WVU starter who won't take any shots outside. He hasn't attempted a three-pointer all season.
Williams is the biggest man in a relatively small lineup, and averages 8.8 points and a team-high 7.3 rebounds. His 57 offensive rebounds are by far the most on the team.
The power forward has only made 40.7% of his shots in his freshman season, and he has five double-doubles. Williams pulled down 13 boards and scored 12 points at home against Oklahoma State, in an 73-72 loss.
Rémi Dibo, No. 0
6-7, 225, jr. forward
After tearing a meniscus in the preseason, the small forward recovered and became one of the most accurate three-point shooters on West Virginia's roster. Dibo is tied for second on the team in 3-pointers with 37, and has made them at a 40.7% clip.
He only averages 18.9 minutes a game this season, but Huggins started him each of the last two games. On the year, he averages 7.3 points and 3.2 rebounds. He had eight boards against Oklahoma.
West Virginia bench
Gary Browne, No. 14
6-1, 195, jr. guard
A veteran presence in a reserve role, Browne leads WVU in career games played with 87.
The experienced guard averages 5.9 points in 19.4 minutes, and he shoots 42.4% from the field. He played for the Puerto Rico national team and his known for his decision-making.
Nathan Adrian, No. 11
6-9, 230, fr. forward
Now he provides a spark off the bench, but earlier this season he started 11 games. The young big man was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week back on Dec. 30, 2013.
Adrian averages 5.0 points and 2.8 rebounds but where he really bothers opponents is on the perimeter. He can stretch the defense by spotting up behind the three-point line, where he's made 27 of 72 (37.5%) this season.
His rebounding numbers (2.8 a game in 17.2 minutes) and free-throw attempts (7-for-11) indicate he doesn't play very physically in the paint.