MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – If there’s one thing all players coached by the legendary Bob Huggins can be certain of, it’s that you definitely don’t want to be on his bad side.
If Huggy Bear’s six-foot-something stature isn’t enough to intimidate you, his reserved personality and ability to go from zero to 100 in a heartbeat undoubtedly will.
On Dec. 8, the Mountaineers faced their biggest challenge to date as they battled the 10th ranked Virginia Cavaliers in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden (a venue with special meaning to Huggins, who led WVU to its first ever Big East title there in 2010).
Losing at Madison Square Garden just never quite sits right with Huggins, especially in a game he knows his team could’ve, should’ve, would’ve won.
Sophomore Jevon Carter, who usually stays on his coach’s good side, especially after a phenomenal freshman season, found himself in the infamous ‘doghouse’ in which Huggins is known for placing his players after they make a not-so-smart choice on the court in a pivotal game.
Carter, who had a wide-open layup opportunity in the second half, opted to try a flashier behind-the-back move (which wasn’t surprising, considering he was wearing some rather unique golden shoes) coming off a Press Virginia turnover. Unfortunately, that decision backfired as the Cavs defense quickly took advantage by stealing the ball right back and pushing much needed momentum in their favor.
“I don’t have any idea what he was thinking,” Huggins said. “He had a layup. It’s hard to imagine you’re really into winning the game when you make a play like that.”
Welcome to the bad side, Jevon.
Carter remained on the bench for the rest of the game donning his old gold shooting shirt signaling to fans that he probably wasn’t coming back into the game even though the Mountaineers needed his overall quickness and sharp defense in order to win against a top-ranked team.
He watched from the bench as West Virginia’s early first-half lead dwindled down to a 16-point deficit as the clock expired.
Obviously, Carter’s blunder wasn’t anywhere near the lone reason for the Mountaineers’ first loss of the season, although it didn’t help. Virginia won the Jimmy V Classic 70-54 due mostly in part to a poor shooting performance on WVU’s behalf. The Mountaineers made only 20 of 50 (just 40%) shots from the field. They also failed to convert from the three-point line, making only 2 of 16 triples.
“We didn’t guard. We didn’t do a very good job at defending,” Huggins said earlier this week at WVU media interviews. “If you don’t make shots, you don’t make free throws, you’re chances of winning aren’t very good. That was about as poor of an effort as we’ve had all year.”
Huggins spent the next few days whipping his team back into a winning shape, specifically Jevon Carter, who didn’t let a short trip to the Huggins doghouse bring down his confidence.
In yesterday’s 100-58 win over UL Monroe, Carter led the Mountaineers in points (21) and steals (5) while adding three rebounds and shooting seven of 14 from the floor.
“You don’t have to worry about my confidence (in Carter),” said Huggins during his post-game presser. “You have to worry about his. He made some shots today, but he also spent a lot of time in the gym. There is a direct correlation between putting the time in and working in the right fashion. He has been successful with doing those things. He has spent a ton of time in the gym.”
Although Huggins was decently impressed with Carter’s performance, the man behind the No. 2 jersey still isn’t satisfied.
“Nah not yet. I still don’t think we played good enough,” said Carter, when asked if he felt as though the chip on his shoulder from his benching last week was gone. “Once we get on somebody, we gotta put them away and not give them (Virginia) a chance to come back,” he reflected.
Although the loss to Virginia has left a bad taste in the sophomores mouth, that game will ultimately benefit the young gun’s on-court maturity and decision-making skills. As Huggins pointed out, Carter is now more dedicated to the gym and even hungrier for the next victory.
“Just going hard, getting back to what we do,” he said. “I think we got too relaxed with our wins. So we’re just going hard and getting it one day at a time.”
Cover Image Credit: Dale Sparks/wvusports.com