West Virginia coach Bob Huggins had no problem earning his 600th win, but No. 601 might not come so easy.
The 23rd-ranked Mountaineers will be trying for their ninth straight win on Saturday when they face upset-minded Oklahoma in Charleston, W.Va.
Huggins became just the sixth active Division I coach and 29th to reach 600 wins last Saturday when the Mountaineers (10-1) rolled to a 77-54 win over Canisius. Huggins, in his first season coaching at his alma mater, joined Bob Knight, Mike Krzyzewski, Lute Olson, Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun, all of whom have already passed the 750-win mark.
“It’s a tremendous tribute to a bunch of really, really good players,” Huggins said. “It’s a tremendous tribute to them. I just stand over there.”
The Mountaineers also won eight in a row last season en route to an NIT championship, but haven’t won nine consecutive games since a 12-game run in 2005-06. They are outscoring their opponents by an average of 28.9 points, the largest margin in the country.
Saturday’s game will be West Virginia’s last before opening its Big East schedule at Notre Dame on Thursday.
“I thought we played pretty well really,” Huggins told the Mountaineers’ official team Web site of the win over Canisius. “That’s hard to play like that, and I thought we sustained our intensity pretty good. We didn’t shoot particularly well for us. We missed some shots we normally don’t miss.”
Joe Alexander had 20 points and Alex Ruoff, who leads the team with 16.0 points per game, added 14. The Mountaineers, whose only loss was a 74-72 defeat against then-No. 7 Tennessee on Nov. 23, lead the Big East with an average of 86.1 points.
Alexander reached 20 points for the third time in four games and bounced back from a four-point effort three days earlier in a win at Radford.
“Joe Alexander gets better and better,” Huggins said. “I thought Joe stayed with things pretty well, and that was a hard game for somebody like Joe to play.”
To keep their winning streak alive, however, the Mountaineers will have to get past an Oklahoma frontcourt led by 6-foot-10 freshman Blake Griffin and 6-foot-11 Longar Longar. Griffin is averaging team highs of 13.2 points and 8.3 rebounds, while Longar is chipping in 12.7 points and 6.7 boards per game.
“We have to continually work on rebounding,” Huggins said. “If we give them second shots, they may get thirds and fourths.”
The Sooners (9-3) are coming off a 72-68 win over then-No. 18 Gonzaga on Dec. 20. Longar scored 16 points, including the go-ahead basket, and Griffin had 15 points and 14 rebounds for Oklahoma, which has won consecutive games after a disappointing loss to Stephen F. Austin.
Oklahoma’s only other two losses have come against No. 2 Memphis and USC.
“It’s a big win but you keep it in perspective. It’s still December,” coach Jeff Capel said. “We have a lot of season left. We haven’t got to conference yet.”
Oklahoma is facing West Virginia for just the second time. The Mountaineers beat the Sooners 92-68 on Dec. 22, 2005 in the first meeting.