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WVSports – West Virginia, Huggins prepares to take on veteran Xavier

Bob Huggins is plenty familiar with the Xavier basketball program.

The head coach was on the other sidelines for 16 editions of the Crosstown Shootout as the head coach at Cincinnati and got an up-close and personal taste for the Musketeers.

Granted it was in an entirely different level of intensity than what West Virginia will be stepping into 6:30 p.m. Saturday as part of the Big 12-Big East battle but there’s certainly a history.

“I don’t have any good thoughts of Xavier whatsoever,” he said.

Huggins and the Xavier teams that he squared off against during his time with the Bearcats played plenty of high level contests, but he hasn’t squared off against the Musketeers since 2008. That was a 79-75 win for Xavier to thrust them into the Elite 8.

So, there isn’t any carryover from those matchups.

This Xavier team is currently 5-3 on the season and the only common opponent is Florida with both match ups coming in the Phil Knight Legacy. The Musketeers beat the Gators 80-73, while the Mountaineers won their matchup in convincing fashion 84-55 in the final matchup of the PK 85.

Xavier has five players that average double figures in scoring and feature senior forward Jack Nunge who has the ability to score at all three levels despite his 7-foot-0 frame.

“They really score. When you have a 7-footer that can step out and make threes at an alarming rate for an opponent to drag your big that far away from the goal it’s a tremendous advantage for them,” Huggins said. “They have a bunch of guys that can make shots.”

That also includes another big in senior Zach Freemantle who at 6-foot-9 is another big for Xavier that will play at the same time as Nunge. He averages 13.6 points and over 7 rebounds per game.

As a team Xavier is shooting 51-percent from the floor and 43.2-percent from three. Senior guard Souley Boum is the leading scorer at 15.8 point per contest, while junior Colby Jones is at 15.7 points per game. Both of those guards create issues with their length and ability to get to the rim.

“They like to find ways to turn them loose at the rim because they’re really good finishers because of their size,” Huggins said.

Xavier is a veteran club that has been through plenty of big games in the past and will challenge West Virginia to be more consistent than they have been to this point. The Mountaineers took two-days off after returning back home, but then got familiarized with the Musketeers before two hard practices.

“We have to take better care of the basketball. We throw it around like that against Xavier and it’s going to be a long night,” Huggins said.

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