MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Bob Huggins said on Friday that he wanted a full 40 minutes from his 19th-ranked WVU men’s basketball team.
He got it today against New Hampshire.
West Virginia smothered the Wildcats with a suffocating full-court press and some accurate 3-point shooting to roll to a 100-41 victory at the WVU Coliseum in the opening game of the NIT Season Tip-off in front of 8,842.
“I thought our rotations were really good, it’s a hard matchup for them - they’re a half-court team that likes to run a lot of sets and Bill (Herrion) does a great job of coaching them,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, now six wins shy of becoming just the ninth coach in NCAA Division I history to achieve 800 career victories. “That pressure keeps mounting and mounting and mounting and I like what we did today.”
After beating its opening two opponents by an average of 34 ½ points per game, West Virginia anticipated a much stiffer challenge against a UNH team that defeated Temple, 57-52, earlier this week.
It didn’t happen.
West Virginia (3-0) used a 24-4 run early in the first half to build an insurmountable 46-20 halftime lead. In the second half, the Mountaineers kept their foot on the pedal as Huggins used every player he had available today.
Six different players reached double figures, led by sophomore forward Esa Ahmad
’s career-high-tying 14 points.
“We’ve been on him pretty good kind of revving the motor up a little more and I thought he played a lot harder today,” said Huggins. “When he’s running the floor and getting a full head of steam he’s probably going to finish it over most people.”
The backups even got into the act, freshman guard Chase Harler
scoring nine, backup guards James Long
and Beetle Bolden contributing six each and freshman center Logan Routt
recording a late tip-in basket for his first career points as a Mountaineer.
Overall, WVU’s bench outscored UNH’s 50-10.
The only unresolved matter was if West Virginia was going to set a school record for forced turnovers established in 2014 with 36 against VMI.
New Hampshire finished two shy of that with 34 this afternoon.
West Virginia shot 54.4 percent overall, and 46.8 percent from 3, making 15 of 32. The last time WVU made at least 15 3s in a game was against Louisiana-Monroe on December 13, 2015.
“We’re capable of making shots,” said Huggins. “This might be the best collection of shooters we’ve had since 2010 (West Virginia’s Final Four season).”
Daniel Dion and Iba Camera led New Hampshire, now 2-2, with 10 points. The Wildcats made just 14 field goals on its 46 attempts for 30.4 percent.
“We got to play 40 minutes against a zone and we’re going to have to go against a zone on Thursday against Illinois,” said Huggins. “We didn’t bring everything out of the bag, obviously, we just kind of ran some zone motion and a little bit of triangle stuff. But I like what we did.”
Rebounds were even at 36 - something Huggins will likely remind his team of as they begin preparing for their trip to Brooklyn, New York, later this week to face Illinois on Thursday afternoon at Barclays Center.
That game will be televised nationally on ESPNU and will tip off at 2:30 p.m.