MORGANTOWN - Bob Huggins has tried big lineups and small ones. He's tried playing primarily shooters at times and rebounders at others. He's tried speeding things up and slowing them down. He's tried mixes of all of those, and more, too.Nothing has worked, at least not consistently, and West Virginia's 8-9 record is evidence of that.So is Huggins' frustration."It just seems like every time I think I've maybe got something figured out that will work,'' he said after the latest of those losses, "they just say, 'Well, we can screw this up, too.'"
On Saturday, in West Lafayette, Ind., it was the small lineup of shooters. What would eventually become a 79-52 rout by Purdue was a 6-6 game early. Matt Humphrey and Aaron Brown, two all-but-forgotten players for the better part of two months, had accounted for West Virginia's six with a pair of 3-pointers.But then in rapid-fire fashion, Humphrey picked up "two of the dumbest fouls that any human being could possibly make,'' Huggins said. So out goes Humphrey."He fouls underneath of our basket. Why?'' Huggins asked. "Particularly why do that when I went on a tangent [the previous day] about guys fouling way out on the perimeter? Why would you do that? Make then try to score."So then Matt's got two [fouls] with 16, 17 minutes to go in the first half. You've got to take him out.''So with Humphrey out, it was harder to try and attack the way Huggins wanted to attack. Purdue eventually altered its lineup and went bigger, and WVU did the same for a while. But nothing worked.That's becoming a repetitive theme, of course. So, too, is Huggins watching his team fail to grasp the basics of things like scouting reports."We used to give guys quizzes after scouting reports to see what they actually learned,'' Huggins said. "I'm not sure I don't do it now for them or for me. When you get a whole bunch of guys who don't get it right ...''He didn't have to finish.But at this point, with 14 games remaining in the regular season and any postseason berth seemingly in jeopardy - much less a sixth straight NCAA tournament bid - Huggins isn't giving up. On Saturday at Purdue, he went extensively with three players who had been almost resigned to the end of the bench - Humphrey, Brown and sophomore Volodymyr Gerun. Those three combined to play 42 minutes. Prior to last Wednesday's game at Iowa State, when Humphrey and Brown combined for 15 minutes, none of the three had played at all since Dec. 22.The use of Gerun was perhaps intriguing. Having played just three games and a total of 12 minutes, the 6-foot-10, 240-pound forward played 12 minutes against Purdue.Was that in preparation for more playing time as the season goes along? Huggins claims he wasn't thinking that far down the road.
"I looked down there and didn't like anything else any better,'' Huggins said, referring to his bench. "I thought he could make a shot.''Gerun didn't score in his stint, which with the exception of a few seconds was all in the second half, but he had a couple of rebounds and two blocks and certainly wasn't shy about shooting. He attempted five shots and four were 3-pointers."They weren't guarding the big guy out on the perimeter and he has made shots,'' Huggins said. "He didn't make any, but that's what he's supposed to do best.''West Virginia's next game is Wednesday night at home against TCU. The 7:30 p.m. game will be televised by ESPN2.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1