MORGANTOWN - If you're old enough to remember when fast-breaking basketball was the norm rather than the exception, then you're going to love the 2008-09 West Virginia University men's basketball team.
That's the style Bob Huggins played in the mid-1970s as an outstanding 6-4, 195-pound guard. And it's the fast-paced kind of offense and tough, in-your-face defense he's teaching at WVU.
After Saturday night's season-opening 92-47 blowout of Elon, the second-year Mountaineer mentor said:
"We want to be a transition team and we want to score in transition. But when we don't score in transition, we've got to be able to rebound it, too. When you shoot it that quick out of the offense, then you don't rebound that well."
Both West Virginia and Elon were red-hot in the closely contested first half, which ended 38-27. The Mountaineers made 14 of 26 shots for 53.8 percent and the Phoenix 11 of 20 for 55.0 percent.
But it was a far different story during the second half, WVU shooting a sizzling 62.5 percent (20 of 32) and Elon just 20.8 percent (5 of 24). The home team stepped up the tempo, offensively, and shut down the visitors with an aggressive man-to-man defense.
Elon Coach Ernie Nestor lamented, "We just got overwhelmed with athleticism and physicality."
Granted, Elon is in the Southern Conference - not the Big East. But West Virginia has ample depth to display some of the same strength it showed the Coliseum throng of 10,250 fans Saturday night.
"We just wanted to have more ball movement (in the second half)," Huggins said. "If we run the offense, then I think we are going to get pretty good shots because when we do try to share it, we do pass it well."
He pointed out that WVU has a lot of players capable of applying pressure on the run. It's just going to take some time for the coaches to settle on the right combinations that they're experimenting with at this early stage.
"Our defense was OK," Huggins said in what sounded like a vast understatement. "We had some breakdowns. They turned it over 15 times in the first half and nine in the second half.
"We tried to stay in front of them a little bit more in the second half than we did in the first half. In the first half, we did create some turnovers. But we just didn't convert on them."
Early signs suggest that this not only will be a fine shooting team but also one that will grab a steadily good share of the rebounds and, most certainly, become fiercely competitive - just like Bobby Huggins was more than 30 years ago.