Changes Needed For WVU Lineup?
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It’s time for Bob Huggins to make changes.
This won’t be easy for the veteran coach, who is on his way towards the Basketball Hall of Fame.
He doesn’t like to do that because, while he coaches his team hard, he bonds with them unlike few other coaches in the business bond with their players.
“I tell the guys this all the time. For whatever they think or say about me, they know I am going to be loyal and they know they can trust me,” he said in the dust of Saturday night’s implosion that resulted in a 83-76 loss to Kentucky.
“I got some guys I can’t trust. When you have guys you can’t trust, how do you put them on the floor? It’s not about them. It’s about us. It’s about those other teammates.”
Trust is a lot of things.
It’s playing hard both in practice and games. It’s doing what you are told. It’s playing for the team and not for yourself.
“I don’t determine playing time-they do. I don’t play guys because I like them or not play them because I dislike them. I play guys I think will help us win the most,” Huggins said. “Until we get some guys who show me I can put them on the floor and trust them…”
He never finished that comment, but all through his post-game press conference you could tell that there’s problems, deeper problems than just not making shots.
Those second-half collapses most obviously — pointed toward that.
His teams in the first half of the last four losses have shot 42.6 percent from the floor in the first half and just 32.8 percent in the second half. At the same time, they held opponents to 41.3 percent first-half shooting while allowing 48.6 percent in the second half.
It’s no different from the 3-point line, WVU hitting 42.3 percent in the first half and dreadful 20.4 percent in the second half.
The second half has done WVU in. If you look at the scores by half they go this way:
WVU has scored 13 more second half points this year but given up 93 more. They outscore their opponents by 193 points in the first half and only 113 in the second half.
The Kentucky game is a perfect example.
“They took us out of some things, and we had some guys going to be heroes rather than team players,” Huggins said.
But it is different than that because, at least through this streak of four losses in five games, Huggins doesn’t have many options.
Daxter Miles Jr. has slumped badly, especially from 3-point range. Teddy Allen, who was providing offense off the bench, was pinned to the bench for attitude reasons and has done nothing since being reinstated.
Esa Ahmad was supposed to give a boost but is 0-for-12 shooting in his last two games, each scoreless.
Huggins hinted at one.
“Beetle Bolden has been really our spark off the bench. I mean, I guess we probably need to start him and play him more minutes,” he said. Bolden scored 17 against Kentucky and probably should elbow his way past Miles and into the starting lineup.
Then Huggins has to find a way to keep shot blocking monster Sagaba Konate on the floor, for the team takes on a totally different — and far meeker — character when he is on the bench and too often he is with foul trouble.
“When Sags got in foul trouble, that’s when they made their run,” Huggins said Saturday night. “Our guys on the perimeter can’t keep turning guys loose and, you know, say ‘Get ’em, Sags.’ They have to actually sit their butt down and guard a little bit, which we haven’t done.”
Huggins even went to a two big lineup at times against Kentucky, using both Maciej Bender and Logan Routt at the same time while Konate was in foul trouble.
“We were in foul trouble, and I just couldn’t watch them just manhandle the guys we had in there anymore,” Huggins said. “They manhandled them, now; they manhandled our forwards.”
So look for change coming soon, if not in the starting lineup, at least in playing time.
Certainly Bolden has earned his place in the sun and maybe it’s time to start Ahmad to see if that doesn’t inspire him to get going right from the start.
But something has to be done.