MORGANTOWN — There are many instances when a 13-6 record is considered strong. Just not when four of those losses come in quick succession.
Wednesday’s matchup, a 72-62 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners, resulted in the West Virginia University men’s basketball team’s fourth-straight loss — a deafening skid with no obvious fix in sight.
“Our last game, we were probably as bad as we’ve been in, arguably, maybe seven years,” Huggins said. “We weren’t just bad, we were horrible.”
Looking for a way to climb out of the hole, the Mountaineers will take a much-needed break from the Big 12 gauntlet this weekend. They’ll hit the road for a bout with the Arkansas Razorbacks today — this season’s meeting in the Big 12/SEC Challenge (2 p.m., ESPN2).
On paper, it appears irrefutable that Arkansas (15-5, 5-3 SEC) will present a considerable challenge for the Mountaineers. Despite entering Saturday unranked, the Razorbacks have won their last five games and currently sit as the conference’s third-best team.
“The first three teams we lost to were all ranked teams,” Huggins said. “We were in two of the three games, went right down to the end. We’re looking to play better and get the bad taste out of our mouths, but I probably would’ve picked somebody else.”
It’s not a challenge to see where the team’s success has come from, especially with the SEC’s top scorer leading the Razorbacks in minutes. That would be guard J.D. Notae, who finished last season as one of the top reserve players in the nation.
This season, he’s averaging nearly 19 points per game on just shy of 42% shooting. Despite shooting only 30% from the three-point line this season, Notae went for 25 points against Ole Miss on Wednesday.
The looming presence of 6-foot-10 forward Jaylin Williams has also been a major piece of the Razorbacks’ recent success. Averaging nine points per game, much of his impact has been seen on the defensive end.
“He’s been terrific, and he’s really solidified their pick and roll defense,” Huggins said. “When you have a big there who can stay in front of guards and change shots and change shots at the rim, all the things that he does, that’s a great weapon to have defensively.”
With an average of 8.9, Williams is Arkansas’ leading rebounder. He ranks third in the conference in the stat, and is also tied for fifth in blocks per game.
Reeling off of the Oklahoma loss, Huggins said Friday that the Mountaineers (13-6, 2-5 Big 12) will only have one day of practice before taking on Arkansas. He went on to add that a large portion of time has been spent on preparing mentally, with the effects of the losing streak taking its toll.
“We talked about where we were, why we were where we were,” Huggins said about Thursday’s preparation “Went out on the floor and walked through some things, but we didn’t do anything yesterday, basketball-wise, other than look at film. It was more of a mental day, which I needed.”
Huggins also told reporters that he hadn’t thought of adjusting the starting lineup. The combination of guards Kedrian Johnson, Sean McNeil and Taz Sherman pairing with forwards Jalen Bridges and Isaiah Cottrell has been in place for all of WVU’s games this season, sans one when McNeil was out with an injury.