Murray Responds to Huggins' Challenge - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Murray Responds to Huggins' Challenge

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MORGANTOWN -

Aaric Murray could not focus.

The Mountaineer center came to the bench early in the first half of West Virginia's 61-56 loss to No. 2 Kansas Monday night and would not acknowledge his head coach yelling out his name.

His teammates called to him, bringing his attention to Bob Huggins, who asked him if he wanted to be in the game or if he wanted to pout on the bench. Murray gave no reply.

Huggins put his big man back in the game, but just over a minute later, after a missed shot, a turnover and a foul, he yanked him again.

This time, Huggins got right in his face and Murray chirped back that he couldn't focus with his head coach in his ear.

"You can't let Coach get to you if he's yelling at you," Murray said after the game. "You've got to listen to the message and not how he's saying it. I think I was listening to how he said it instead of what he was saying. I was getting frustrated and worrying about him instead of playing the game. When I stopped worrying about him, everything was fine."

Not only was it fine, but Murray provided a spark the next time Huggins called his number from the bench.

He made a jumper, got a steal and slam dunk in a flurry of action that awakened the crowd and ignited the Mountaineers. Murray finished the game with 17 points and seven boards in the losing effort.

"He was miserable to start the game," Huggins said. "He was terrible defensively, he was terrible offensively and I got him out. He sitting there and I said, if you want to play, just tell me. We are not going to do this. To his credit, which I give him a lot of credit, he came back and played pretty good and played with some enthusiasm and I think for him, played pretty hard. I think earlier in the year, he probably wouldn't have responded that way."

Not only did he respond on the court, but he did off of it as well. With all of the bigs in foul trouble through much of the second half, Murray took a seat on the bench. When his teammate, Deniz Kilicli, was called back into action, Murray literally chased him to the scorer's table, screaming words of encouragement.

Truth be told, Murray has had a lot of ups and downs similar to Monday's through the course of the entire season. He loses his head at times, but can also look like the world's best teammate when he thinks to do so.

Huggins credited Murray for the way he responded, but not all players are able to use that fuel in the same manner.

"When you get on the bench and Coach Huggs talks to you, you've just got to listen," Jabarie Hinds said. "You can't take it any [negative] way, you've just got to listen and stay focused so when he calls your number, you go back out there. Aaric just had a little lapse, the talking got in his head, so he lost a little focus, but he came out and was ready to play."

Murray made three of WVU's four 3-pointers, showing a consistency from long range that no one else on the team seems to have mastered. It got to the point that he was stroking it so well from distance that Huggins began running sets to get him the ball on the perimeter.

"Coach knew their fives were going to stay back, so he just said if they stay back, just shoot it in," Murray said, admitting that he still feels he has a long way to go. "I'm still not settled, never satisfied. I just want to keep working better, get my teammates better."

There has been a widespread opinion that Murray, with his size and athleticism and sometimes the reputation of selfishness he possesses, would play this one season with Huggins and WVU and then go looking for a professional career.

Huggins said it's too early to talk about those things, but Murray seemed willing to shed light on his current thoughts regarding the future.

"I've still got another year of eligibility, and I'm in no rush ... I've actually fell in love with this place," Murray said. "I want to win a national championship and play in those big games like today ... a type of game I've never won before."

Monday's results were not on Murray. The first few minutes, maybe, but when he got his head right, he was a big part of the reason why WVU almost came out on top in one of those big games he talks about.

The trick now is to be focused from the opening tip and not need a talk from the head coach to be a spark for the team.

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