Bad Passing, Inexperience Big Parts Of WVU’s Shooting Woes, Says Huggins
MORGANTOWN, W.Va – Bob Huggins walked down the steps of the WVU Coliseum to the playing floor Friday morning and took a seat at one end of the court, as approximately a dozen media members gathered around him for his normal press availability prior to Saturday’s game with Kansas State.
After 11 minutes of answering questions about his team’s loss at Texas Tech a couple days before and about the upcoming meeting with K-State (Feb. 1, 2 p.m. on ESPN2), the Mountaineer coach reached into his pocket and pulled out a few folded pieces of paper.
“I probably shouldn’t, but I’ll give you some very alarming stats,” said Huggins, isolating one Post-It note with some handwritten numbers. “We were averaging 20 turnovers per game for the longest time, but on top of that …
“Uncontested field goals, which is if the guy is seven or eight feet off you or further, we are 54 for 169 for 32 percent. That’s with nobody guarding you.
“Catch-and-shoot – catch it, step in and shoot it, not off the bounce, just catch it, step in and shoot it – we are 73 for 243 for 30 percent.
“Uncontested catch-and-shoot shots, we are 22 for 89 for 25 percent.
“You want to know why we have lost four? We can’t shoot,” continued Huggins, whose club is 16-4 overall on the season and 4-3 in the Big 12 Conference. “We’re not making shots.”
West Virginia’s coach noted that not all the blame on the poor shooting percentages can be laid exclusively on the fingertips of the shooters.
“A good portion of that (shooting) statistic is because of bad passes,” explained Huggins, who is tied with Adolph Rupp for the seventh most wins in NCAA Division I history with a record of 876-366. “If you have to field (the pass) off your ankles, you’re probably not going to make it. If you have to jump to get it and then come back down, you’re probably going to get covered up.
“Great passers make even bad shooters decent shooter. They are just shooting everything from the pocket,” he explained. “The more movement there is in your shot, the more chance there is for error. If you are fielding it down here or up here or over there, then there is a huge chance for error.”
The Mountaineers are currently third in the Big 12 in scoring offense (73.7 points per game) and fifth in field goal percentage offense (43.6 percent), but last in the league in three-point field goal percentage offense (30.1 percent) and also assist/turnover ratio (0.87).
“The one thing I do is I don’t lie, and I’ve said since the first week of practice that we can’t pass,” said WVU’s veteran coach. “I haven’t changed my opinion. We can’t pass.”
With three seniors, one junior, five sophomores and five freshmen, the Mountaineers are the youngest team in the Big 12 and on the lower end of that scale in all of Division I.
“Is some of that experience? I think so, I hope so,” Huggins said in terms to WVU’s offensive issues. “Experience has a lot to do with it.
“How much better was Wanny (Juwan Staten, with experience)? He’s one of the best point guards we’ve had here, but he sure wasn’t his first year (In 2013). He was horrible.
“I do think we improve some every day, but is it significant enough to notice?”
“We made a conscious effort to try to recruit guys who could shoot,” he said. “Look at how Taz (Sherman) struggled, and now he’s starting to come out of it. You would think that at some point in time Sean McNeil is going to come out of it. Jordan (McCabe) is shooting 20 percent … 20 percent! He’s a better shooter than that. You would think that with the law of averages, if nothing else. they would start making more shots.”
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The Mountaineers’ Brandon Knapper did not play in WVU’s 89-81 loss at Texas Tech Wednesday because of a reported illness.
The sophomore guard, who is averaging 3.6 points in 9.6 minutes of action per game this season, has returned to practice and likely will be available for game action against K-State on Saturday.
“He was good yesterday,” said Huggins of Knapper during Thursday’s practice work. “He had the flu. He doesn’t necessarily look good. He’s lost weight and stuff, but he shot it pretty good yesterday.”