BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP)—West Virginia forward Alex Ruoff could only shake his head and laugh at how unemotional coach Bob Huggins was after securing his 600th career victory.
“We were clapping and cheering for him as he came out of the bathroom, and he asked what time practice was on Christmas,” Ruoff said, describing the scene in the 24th-ranked Mountaineers’ locker room following a 77-54 win over Canisius on Saturday. “He didn’t even address it. We all got a chance to give him a hug. I think it’s more special for us than it is for him.”
That might be the case because Huggins barely cracked a smile during his postgame news conference. Rather, he mentioned his boyhood days, recalling someone—Huggins wouldn’t say who the person was—who drove him around to play basketball games.
“He told me one time, `Take a look, there isn’t any rearview mirror in this truck. We’re looking out the windshield going straight ahead,”’ he said. “I’ve kind of always remembered that.”
Then again, it was a rather unmemorable game for such a big achievement. Huggins becoming the sixth active Division I coach and 29th ever to reach 600 wins.
Joe Alexander had 20 points and six rebounds, while Ruoff scored 14 points, including two 3-pointers that sparked a 17-2 first-half run. The Mountaineers (10-1) won their eighth straight game, matching their longest streak since last season. The defending NIT champions are off to their second consecutive 10-1 start.
Freshman Pawel Malesa scored 16 points for the young and outmatched Golden Griffins (1-10), who are starting three freshmen and two sophomores. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference program is off to its worst start since going 1-11 to open the 1987-88 campaign.
The game was over by the end of the first half, which West Virginia closed with a 19-5 run for a 33-17 lead.
All that was left was waiting for Huggins to celebrate.
And there wasn’t much to see, the usually colorful coach barely displayed any emotion. He spent most of the game watching quietly and without much expression with either his arms folded or a hand in his pocket. Huggins didn’t even crack a smile when Josh Sowards ended the game with a 3-pointer.
Huggins merely turned and walked over to shake hands with Canisius players and coaches.
He was most happy when he met Leonard Stokes outside the locker room. Stokes played under Huggins at Cincinnati, and is now back living in his native Buffalo.
“It’s a tremendous tribute to a bunch of really, really good players,” said Huggins, who had dinner with Stokes at the former player’s restaurant Friday night. “It’s a tremendous tribute to them. I just stand over there.”
Huggins reached the milestone in his first season at his alma mater after taking over following John Beilein’s departure for Michigan. Huggins joined Bob Knight, Mike Krzyzewski, Lute Olson, Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun, all of whom have already passed the 750-win mark.
Golden Griffins coach Tom Parrotta was pleased with his team’s effort, and happy they were able to slow the Mountaineers at least in the early going.
“The experience is invaluable,” Parrotta said. “When you’re at a point where we are, you can’t simulate this kind of stuff. We didn’t do everything right, but we weren’t intimidated.”
The Golden Griffins unraveled late in the first half, when they went 1-of-13 and committed four turnovers over the final six minutes.
Canisius continues to struggle on offense, having been held to 60 points or less seven times this season, including a 93-40 loss at Penn State on Nov. 16.
West Virginia, which has yet to open its Big East season, entered the game outscoring its opponents by a national-best 29.4 points per game, and has won all 10 games by 14 or more points.