Bob Huggins giving freshmen larger roles

Trey Doomes’ introduction to college basketball was a little trash talk with Oklahoma State guard Isaac Likekele, a couple of rebounds and a couple of missed defensive assignments.

“He had a couple of breakdowns defensively that hurt us,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said following the Mountaineers’ 85-77 loss against the Cowboys on Saturday.

Welcome to college hoops, kid.

For those interested in what the future of West Virginia’s program may look like, they got more than a taste against Oklahoma State.

With senior Esa Ahmad and junior Wesley Harris both benched and James “Beetle” Bolden in early foul trouble, Huggins’ hand was forced to play a lineup of four freshmen throughout the game.

With the redshirt being lifted off Doomes, he was joined on the floor by first-year teammates Jordan McCabe, Derek Culver and Emmitt Matthews Jr., with each of them playing at least eight minutes.

Redshirt freshman guard Brandon Knapper also rotated with McCabe and played 10 minutes.

“I thought they went out and did their job,” Bolden said. “They played hard. That was kind of a tough situation for them to be in, but I thought they handled it pretty well.”

Culver was his consistent self, finishing with 15 points and 15 rebounds — in what was his third double-double in just his sixth collegiate game.

“Not bad considering we didn’t throw him the ball,” Huggins said.

Since making his debut on Dec. 22, Culver is averaging 14.4 points and 11 rebounds per game over the past five games.

Having a few more of his freshman teammates was an eye-opener to him.

“Yeah, that was interesting, because it really felt a lot different out there,” Culver said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. With that said, I think we could keep playing all the younger guys. I think that could work some of the times.”

How many of those times the Mountaineers (8-8, 0-4) face in the days to come is still in question.

Huggins said sitting Harris and Ahmad had nothing to do with being in an extended dog house.

“I don’t hold grudges. I’m not that kind of person,” Huggins said. “[The benching] was something I thought we had to do and we did it. It’s over with and we’ll start fresh.”

That will likely mean less playing time for the bulk of the freshmen — minus Culver — as Huggins goes about trying to fix what is repairable this season.

“I do think this: I think we’re talented enough that we can make a run,” Huggins said. “I really do. We haven’t shown that, but I think we are.”

This might help: In a tweet that was eventually deleted following Saturday’s game, junior forward Sagaba Konate hinted that he was interested in playing again this season.

In any sense, there is no sense of giving up among the remaining WVU players.

“Coach [Huggins] told us that we still have a lot of big games coming up,” guard Jermaine Haley said. “If we can get some of those, it could help us get to a better spot. We just have to keep working and see what happens.”

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