WASHINGTON -- Bob Huggins saw a bit too much daydreaming from his players when he was going over the scouting reports on West Virginia's upcoming opponents, so the coach morphed into a high-school teacher to get his point across.
Here's a play: Come up to the board and draw it. Here's a test to take before every game. What does this guy do? Does he go right-handed, left-handed? Were you even paying attention?
Huggins started the tactic three games ago, and it started to pay dividends Saturday, when the Mountaineers set aside their sluggish Big East start for a 65-59 win over No. 13 Georgetown.
"I've done it before when I've had knuckleheads," Huggins said. "Our attention to detail wasn't very good. You put a test in there and then you kind of find out who's paying attention."
Casey Mitchell scored 28 points, Kevin Jones added 15, and West Virginia (10-4, 2-2) forced 18 turnovers -- including four in the final two minutes -- in a rematch of last year's Big East tournament championship game, won by the Mountaineers.
West Virginia also had big margins in offensive rebounds (15-4), field goal attempts (52-42) and free throw attempts (24-11) to offset a deficiency in shooting percentage (40-50). It was a much-needed result after a conference start that included losses to St. John's and Marquette and a narrow win over lowly DePaul.
"We wanted someone else to be 1-3, not us," Mitchell said.
That someone is Georgetown (12-4, 1-3), off to its worst Big East start since the 2003-04 season, Craig Esherick's last as coach. Once again, the Hoyas' senior leaders struggled: Conference preseason player of the year Austin Freeman went scoreless in the first half and finished with 11 points on 3 for 8 shooting, while Chris Wright was 3 for 13 -- including 1 for 7 from 3-point range -- and finished with nine points and five turnovers.
"We're in a place where we don't want to be right now," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "Everyone in that locker room from myself on down has to figure out how to get us out of this place. We're the same group of guys who were in there two or three weeks ago, and now we just have to find out how to get back there."
Jason Clark scored 16 points to lead the Hoyas, but he was credited with three turnovers in the final 1:30. Georgetown's last points came on Clark's three-point play with 2:35 to go, cutting a six-point lead to three. The Mountaineers played solid and physical the rest of the way and threw in an unexpected gimmick defense that caught the Hoyas off guard.
"Our confidence as a team, the morale, is a little down because of the way we've been losing," Wright said, "but we've got to stay together. We have good enough players that we're going to come out of this."
Mitchell had his best Big East game yet for what is already a spark plug season for the senior, whose scoring average has risen from 3.7 points last season to 17.6 this season. The National Junior College Athletic Association player of the year at Chipola College in 2009, Mitchell went 10 of 19 from the field, including 4 for 7 from 3-point range.
It was his first 20-point game since Dec. 1.
"Casey, I thought, was really assertive early in the year and played really, really hard," Huggins said, "and then had a stretch where he didn't play very hard. It's hard to get shots when you aren't playing very hard."
Huggins is finding it harder to get this season's team fully focused, unlike the squad that last season was led by Da'Sean Butler. That group never needed any scouting report tests.
"If they didn't know what they were doing, Da'Sean would have slapped them on the wrong side of the head," Huggins said. "He's allowed to do that."
Even with the tests, Huggins found himself having to challenge his team yet again after Friday's practice.
"If it wasn't the worst I've ever been associated with, it's close," Huggins said. "We were awful. We went into the film room and sat down and just talked about 'Who's going to take ownership?' I think I'm going to be back next year, but a lot of them are not going to be. So you'd better take ownership, and I think we had a lot more of that going on today."
- John Cahill
- James Breeding
- Jeff Clark