Huggins’ solid old gold jacket, pants, and yes even shoes matched the colors worn by a vast majority of the crowd of over 10,000 at Morgantown’s West Virginia University Coliseum Wednesday night.
Even greater was the other similarity between Huggins and the Mountaineer fan base- facial expressions of utter shock and disbelief as West Virginia, 14-point favorites, lost to Huggins’ one time apprentice and assistant, current University of Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin and his Cincinnati Bearcats, Huggins’ former team, 62-39.
Cincinnati (10-11, 5-4 in the Big East) used a stingy interior defense to force the Mountaineers (15-6, 4-4 in the Big East) to the perimeter early and often, an area of their game that so far this season had been spot on, shooting 38 percent from behind the arc coming in. Tonight however, West Virginia was held to their worst shooting effort in school history, hitting just 20 percent of their field goals (10-50) and making one lone three-pointer out of 22 attempts (4.5 percent). The Mountaineers missed all 11 of their shots from three point land in the first half, while UC was able to shoot 50 percent (5-10) in the opening half and 45 percent (9-20) from long distance in the game.
UC sophomore Deonta Vaughn led all scorers with 18 points, Marcus Sikes pulled down 12 rebounds, and Jamal Warren played a solid game consisting of nine points, nine rebounds, and six assists as the Bearcats improved to above .500 in conference play after dropping their previous two Big East games, losing both by a combined four points.
West Virginia senior guard Darris Nichols, who came into the game averaging 11.3 points per game, led the Mountaineers in scoring by putting up 17 points in the losing effort, ten of which he earned the hard way at the foul line. Alex Ruoff and Joe Alexander, averaging 15.7 and 15 points per game, respectively, combined for just eight.
Cincinnati was able to use its size to out rebound West Virginia 39-24. They also connected for 14 assists, compared to West Virginia’s lowly five.
The game was the first match up between Bob Huggins and Cincinnati since his forced resignation from the school in August of 2005, after coaching the program for 16 years. Fans and haters alike will have to wait one more year for Huggins to make his return to Clifton, however.
Current Bearcat head coach Mick Cronin continued his ongoing Big East Coach of the Year campaign after now more than doubling his conference win total from last year. Just this season, Cronin has coached his team to wins over squads coached by his former bosses and mentors, WVU’s Huggins and University of Louisville’s Rick Pitino, not to mention victories over then ranked number 19 Villanova and number 15 Pittsburgh.
This Saturday Feb. 2nd, Cronin and the Bearcats will look to continue on their Big East winning ways, hosting number 17 ranked Marquette at noon in the Shoemaker Center.