SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- West Virginia coach Bob Huggins has 24 hours to get his team ready to play either Vanderbilt or Nebraska in the semifinals of the Honda Puerto Rico Tip-Off. And it didn't take him long to light into it, either.
Shortly after the Mountaineers' 84-70 first-round victory over Davidson on Thursday afternoon, Huggins implored his team to find a consistent streak. It did not in the foul-plagued game against the Wildcats (67 fouls called).
“I think our strength will be our balance, but obviously it wasn’t [today],’’ Huggins said. “Casey [Mitchell] can make shots. Deniz [Kilicli] should score in the post. We’re not consistent.’’
Mitchell did make two 3s. Darryl Bryant did score 22 points and Kevin Jones did score 10, while Dan Jennings was a complement off the bench with 10 boards and eight points. Kilicli fouled out -- like Jones and John Flowers -- and didn’t score, missing two shots in six minutes.
“It’s about needing to do this 35 more times,’’ Huggins said. “It’s not about tomorrow or today. It’s about the rest of the year and for some of them the rest of their careers.’’
Davidson hung around in the game, cutting a lead of 19 down to a manageable 10 at one point despite missing the first 19 3s it took. Part of that was West Virginia’s foul troubles and also the inability to find any consistency.
Bryant bailed out the Mountaineers late by making shots and getting to the line.
“Somebody is going to have to step up,’’ said Bryant, who missed last season’s Final Four with a broken foot. “I feel like I need to show everybody that I’m back on that level. That’s it. We need to be prepared for tomorrow. This is a national tournament against some of the best teams. We’ve got to be mentally focused to play.’’
The Mountaineers were picked fifth in the Big East, but they certainly have the talent to challenge for the conference title. Huggins said as much, in large part because of his team's ability to shoot. How the Mountaineers handle defense and the rebounding game will go a long way toward determining if they can hang with the rest of the Big East elite. Having Bryant and Joe Mazzulla on the court together makes for a tough guard matchup and there is confidence this team will be in the thick of the race.
Huggins was hard on the Mountaineers after the game, mainly because he knows they can play better. One gets the sense they will in Friday’s semifinals.