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WVU to take on Bucknell in NCAA Tournament


Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — West Virginia’s first round NCAA tournament game against Bucknell on Thursday will be the second game of the afternoon session at KeyBank Center. The game will be televised by CBS.

Game times on Thursday in Buffalo, New York are as follows: Notre Dame vs. Princeton – 12:15 p.m., West Virginia vs. Bucknell – 30 minutes following the conclusion of the first game (approximately 2:45 p.m.).

MORGANTOWN — Coach Bob Huggins has to find a way to avoid a repeat of last year when his West Virginia Mountaineers, following losing in the final of the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, went through a dreadful week of preparation as a No. 3 seed and were upset in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament by No. 14 Stephen F. Austin in Brooklyn, New York.

This year the Mountaineers lost in Saturday’s Big 12 Final to Iowa State after having beaten them easily twice in the regular season, leading to them landing a No. 4 seed in the West Regional and playing No. 12 Bucknell of the Patriot Conference in the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday.

Bucknell, coached by second year coach Nathan Davis, went 26-8, winning 14 of its final 16 games to play its way into its seventh NCAA Tournament.

The winner of the game will face the winner of the Notre Dame-Princeton game on Saturday.

Huggins and the players are still trying to recover from last season’s disaster.

“There was no enthusiasm (last year). We were just kind of out there,” Huggins said.

He’d seen it all week and spoke to it, but it didn’t seem to make any difference.

“I don’t think I ever had a team that bad in practice, that consistently,” he said. “Most players are excited about playing in the NCAA. We had New York guys who were not excited about going back and playing in New York.”

He plans to make some differences in the approach this week.

“I told them I am going to throw their ass out of practice this year,” he said. “There’s no sense wasting time in practice if you are not going to practice. They were horrible. Horrible. There was no effort. We had no enthusiasm. They acted like they didn’t want to be there.”

His players understand that they are facing a new challenge, for their play throughout the conference schedule fell off dramatically.

“We have to come in and stay focused,” said senior forward Nate Adrian, who understands now that any game can be his last for WVU. “We can’t look past the opponent like we did last year a little bit.”

This is a team that relies heavily not only on seasoned played like Adrian, Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles Jr., and Tarik Phillip, but on five freshmen who have made big-time contributions, but didn’t play through the Stephen F. Austin collapse.

“My message to them,” said Carter, the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Year and the central figure in both the Mountaineer offense and defense, “is they have to play their hardest and have to take it just one possession as a time.”

Huggins and his staff went to work immediately on the Bison, trying to break them down so they can get right into practice today.

“I don’t know anything about Bucknell. We’re getting ready to go launch into them now,” Huggins admitted, minutes after hearing the draw.

But he had no complaints about being shuffled off to Buffalo to play, even if it was in a West Regional.

“I like Buffalo. It was good to us the last time,” he said, that being in 2010 when they went through Morgan State and Missouri en route to the school’s first Final Four appearance in a years.

Huggins isn’t hitting the reset button.

“No, not really,” he said. “You go watch film. You see conceptually what they are trying to do and you try to figure out conceptually what you can do to disrupt what they are trying to do.

“Then you look at what matchups you can take advantage of, where can we get the ball in areas where it’s hard for them to guard. Then, what are they going to do against man and what are they going to do against some sort of zone.”

But in the end, WVU has to play better than it played in Kansas City.

“You watch yesterday’s game and we go 8 for 17 in free throws. We made 20 free throws the first time we played them, 17 the second. That’s a huge difference.” Huggins began.

“We turn it over 10 times in the first half. We didn’t do that the first two times … and Deonte Burton played as well as I’ve ever seen him play and I watch a lot of tape. You take into account we didn’t make a free throw, we turned the ball over excessively and they probably played as well as they every played and we lose by six?”

In other words, they don’t have change things, just do them better and rest assured that he will push for that this week.

“The first thing we have to do is get healthy. Nate is not healthy. Teyvon (Myers) sprained his ankle. JC (Carter) is not healthy. We have to get healthy. That’s the biggest thing,” Huggins said.

“We haven’t been the aggressor. We haven’t dictated how the game is being played and we have to get back to doing that. We kind of let other people dictate style and pace. We have to play the way we play.”

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