MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — In the end, Bob Huggins said he coached Saturday’s 84-82 exhibition loss against Penn State, at the WVU Coliseum, just like a game that meant absolutely nothing.
He called have called more timeouts. He could have run some different sets and plays.
“We were very vanilla, because I didn’t want to throw the works out there so Buffalo [West Virginia’s opponent on Friday in the regular-season opener] could have a week to work on it,” Huggins said.
In return, the 13th-ranked Mountaineers put forth an effort that had more questions than answers.
Penn State guard Josh Reaves won the game with one second remaining, when he scored on an uncontested offensive putback after grabbing Lamar Stevens’ miss from the foul line.
In the last second, Logan Routt’s full-court inbounds pass was batted away and the final horn sounded.
In truth, the Nittany Lions — last season’s NIT champion — won the game by knocking 13 of 25 from 3-point range and outrebounding the Mountaineers, 41-37, with 18 of those 41 rebounds coming on the offensive end.
“They just wanted it more than we did,” West Virginia forward Lamont West said. “There isn’t much else to say. They played a lot harder than we did. We didn’t play very hard at all.”
Maybe the biggest question for the Mountaineers will be what will they look like once junior point guard James “Beetle” Bolden returns from a hand injury?
Huggins held Bolden out of the exhibition game, but the point guard has been practicing. Bolden dressed and warmed up with the team during pregame drills, but sat on the bench for the game.
“It hurts not having Beetle in there,” said West Virginia guard Chase Harler, who finished with 10 points and three assists after getting the starting nod. “We just have to figure things out. It all starts by playing hard. We didn’t play as hard as we should have today.”
In replace of Bolden, point guards Brandon Knapper, Jermaine Haley and Jordan McCabe shot a combined 5 of 13 and added six assists and six turnovers.
Outside of Esa Ahmad’s 25 points and seven rebounds, no West Virginia player found any consistency on offense.
“We’ll get better,” Huggins said. “I told [the team] in there that it’s like having a whole bunch of pieces on the floor. If they don’t fit together, you don’t have anything, do you? You just have a bunch of crap.
“If those pieces fit together, then you have something, and right now, we have too many pieces that don’t fit.”
The last time a team made 13 3-pointers against the Mountaineers came in last season’s Sweet 16 loss against Villanova. The Nittany Lions had 11 of them with 11:49 still remaining in the game, many of them wide open looks from the corner.
“I said before that we didn’t make rotations [on defense],” Huggins said. “How many shots did we give up in the corner? You haven’t seen those in recent years, nobody gets those. We give those up, because we don’t make rotations.”
Sagaba Konate, who is playing on a sore knee, scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half, but took a while to get going. He was hit with two early fouls in the first half.
“I honestly didn’t want to play him as many minutes as we played him,” Huggins said. “He just wanted to play in the second half so much and we left him in there. I just hope we didn’t leave him in there too long.”
Wesley Harris — a starter all 37 games last season — and Lamont West combined for 12 points and five rebounds.
And while the Mountaineers forced 18 turnovers with its defensive pressure that was more full-court man-to-man than it was a trap, they also turned it back over 16 times.
“You’re either going to go down or up and I think this team will go up,” Harler said. “I’m sure film study will be interesting with that last-second tip-in and how they continued to spread us out and drive right past us and shoot open threes all day.”
Huggins said freshman forward Derek Culver did not play, because he wasn’t doing the right things in practice and freshman guard Trey Doomes didn’t play, because he just couldn’t find the right spot to get him in the game.
The attendance of 9,517 helped raise $9,344 for the American Red Cross Hurricane relief efforts.
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