It was eventful day on Wednesday surrounding the Sweet 16 match-up of overall No.1 seed Kentucky and No. 5 seed West Virginia.
WVU head basketball coach Bob Huggins spent his time talking about his friendship with Coach Calipari, his time at Kansas State, his heart attack in Pittsburgh and the Mountaineer press. Huggins understands the benefits of the press, and the things that can hurt you.
“We give up some things,” he said. “I think you have to be ready for that once in a while. There have been some games when we have given up way too much, but that’s, I guess, the risk-reward of it. There are games we probably shouldn’t have won, but we won because we do that.”
Then it was Coach Cal.
“I’ve seen Bobby’s teams over the years, obviously we’ve been friends for a long time, but he’s doing stuff this year I’ve not seen him do and that tells you the kind of coach he is. He looked at his team and he said, hey, we’re going to have to play a little different.
“So they’re giving up two-point baskets; high percentage – which I’ve never seen a team have a field goal percentage that high and do this well. But they are creating havoc, they’re taking you out of your offense, they’re creating opportunities for tough shots or turnovers. They’re playing very physical; they’re coming in and letting you know it’s going to be body to body and you had better be ready. He looked at his team and he said, that’s how we have to play.”
When it came to the players, the Mountaineers had no problem calling their shot saying this is the team that can beat the 36-0 Wildcats.
Freshmen Daxter Miles, Jr. kicked things off when he said Kentucky “don’t play hard” and should “fear the Mountaineers.”
Oh boy… and Miles, he had no intention of stopping there.
“I give them their props,” Miles said. “Salute them to getting to 36-0. But tomorrow they’re gonna be 36-1.”
“They should be more intimidated,” he said. “Because they’re the ones who have the high standard, and we’re coming for them.”
Miles went on to say the Wildcats wouldn’t be able to pass the ball against the WVU press. The Mountaineers are forcing an average of 28.3 turnovers per game.
When senior guard Juwan Staten was asked of Kentucky would have success again the press, his answer was simple.
“Why wouldn’t it?” Staten said. “We’ve been playing this way all year, we’ve had success against everybody no matter what style or what type of players they have.
That’s the only way we play and it’s just up to us to make it work.”
Kentucky forward Willie Cauley-Stein kept his thoughts short and sweet. “That’s good,” Cauley-Stein said. “It adds fuel to the fire.”
The question all week has been asked. Can West Virginia bring enough pressure to stop Kentucky?”I don’t know,” Huggins said. “I hope so. It’s going to be a long day for us if we can’t.”