Saturday, February 4, 2023

West Virginia basketball makes impression, has a chance for another

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West Virginia wanted to make an impression during their stay at the PK85 in Portland and while it wasn’t quite as strong as it could have been, the message was still well received.

This Mountaineers basketball team finished 2-1 in the three-game tournament falling to only eventual champion Purdue in their most competitive game of the event.

And that game is one where West Virginia struggled with foul trouble from key pieces to the roster, but still managed to cut it to two-possessions down the stretch run before the Boilermakers ultimately pulled away.

The Mountaineers still put up a much better overall effort than either nationally ranked Gonzaga or Duke against Purdue giving the group some confidence moving forward.

After that West Virginia easily dispatched Portland State, but saved the best for last in a dominating 84-55 win over Florida. It was a convincing win as the Mountaineers led by double-digits for much of the first half and used a 27-9 run to open the second half in order to effectively put things away.

This is a team that is simply fun to watch as the Mountaineers rely on a deep, unselfish rotation of players that should only get better once Jose Perez is cleared to join the roster.

“Got to continue to get better. And we’ve got to continue to take better care of the ball,” head coach Bob Huggins said.

The win over Florida, in the fashion it occurred, is something that can catch the attention of those across the college basketball landscape. The Mountaineers already have been elevated to No. 29 in the AP Poll and could make a significant run to get inside the top 25 with a win on the road at Xavier.

West Virginia also rose to No. 29 in the KenPom rankings.

That’s quite a welcomed change after last season’s disappointing 16-17 result and a last place finish in the Big 12. Huggins has said since the start that this team wants to make a run, this is a good start.

“They want to make a run. You hope that it helps you nationally. Our goal is to go to the NCAA tournament and win in the NCAA tournament and the easier way to do that is get a higher seed. We need to play like this all the time,” Huggins said.

Every game is important, but the Mountaineers have certainly made the most of their opportunities at this early stage of the season.

“When you take a look at what we want to do is we want to do a good job so we’re seeded where we need to be and we’re doing things we need to do once we hit the conference,” Huggins said.

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