MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Bob Huggins refuses to sugarcoat his feelings on his team’s most recent performance.
Immediately following WVU’s 72-62 loss to Oklahoma. which extended the team’s losing streak to four games, Huggins apologized to fans and promised to “fix” the team’s issues. He put that loss into clearer perspective Friday as his team prepares to face Arkansas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
“We were probably as bad as we’ve been in arguably maybe seven years. We were horrible,” Huggins said. “We weren’t just bad, we were horrible.”
Because of the quick turnaround following Wednesday’s setback, WVU (13-6, 2-5) has spent very little time practicing ahead of the trip to Fayetteville. Huggins noted that Friday was more of a “mental day” for the team — something he admitted he needed — and though the coach threatened to make changes to his lineup after the OU game, he hasn’t been dwelling on what changes to make.
“We actually didn’t really practice yesterday. We sat and watched game film,” Huggins said. “We talked about where we were, why we were where we were, went out on the floor and walked through some things.”
On the other hand, Arkansas’ lineup has been firing away in recent weeks. After enduring a three-game losing streak at the start of SEC play, the Razorbacks (15-5, 5-3) have won five in a row. That winning streak continued Wednesday with a 64-55 win at Ole Miss, and includes an upset over nationally ranked LSU.
The Hogs are led by senior guard JD Notae, whose 18.9 points per game lead the SEC. Sophomore Jaylin Williams is also averaging just shy of a double-double on the season with 9.0 points and 8.9 rebounds per contest. Notae and Williams netted 25 and 18 points respectively against Ole Miss.
“They’re both very good,” Huggins said. “They’re very good at the pick and roll. They don’t need a pick and roll, really. They can score the ball. They’re very talented individuals.”
The Mountaineers will try to match Notae’s hot hand with their tandem of high-scoring guards. Taz Sherman’s 18.5 points per game still rank second in the Big 12, while Sean McNeil ranks ninth with 13.6 ppg.
But the real player of intrigue in this matchup is Gabe Osabuohien, a transfer who will play against his old school for the first time. Osabuohien is coming off a career-high offensive performance against Oklahoma.
Huggins, though, expects the forward to treat this contest like any other.
“Gabe loves to play the game,” Huggins said. “I’m sure it means something to him, and probably a little more, but Gabe plays with great enthusiasm all the time.”
He added: “He is, without question, the leader and the heart and soul of our basketball team.”
West Virginia will meet Arkansas Saturday at 2 p.m. at Bud Walton Arena. The game will be televised on ESPN2.