Differing Perceptions Fuel Evaluations of WVU’s Play
PITTSBURGH — There was a definite disconnect between Lamont West’s stat line in West Virginia’s 69-60 win over Pitt and the evaluation of his game by head coach Bob Huggins. The former was very good: 13 points and eight rebounds, including a 3-8 mark from 3-point range. Also included were two assists, a steal and zero turnovers in 36 minutes of action.
The latter? Not so much. Huggins pointed out his unhappiness with West’s inactivity on offense and lack of energy on defense, although, to be fair, he included the entire team in his criticism of WVU’s defensive play. So, what’s going on here?
First, understand, as you probably already do, that Huggins is more likely to come down hard on his team after a win. He saw the Mountaineers run out to a 20-point lead in the first half, and knew that despite the 31-9 disparity in free throws, that his team should have put the game away. He was unhappy that WVU managed just two points during the four minutes and 42 seconds that Jevon Carter spent on the bench with four fouls. And he was upset that he could only get many players to do what he asked when he could gather them during timeouts.
Second, West did have a good game in some areas — just not to the level that Huggins wants. He rebounded very well from the point of the 1-3-1, a task that requires a lot of activity. Chasing and trapping on the perimeter, then getting down the lane and into rebounding position when shots go up, requires a lot of activity. Zero turnovers in 36 minutes is also excellent.
So, like most takes on a game, the viewpoint is important. Huggins doesn’t want his players to feel as if they’ve arrived. He wants that Texas A&M loss to continue to burn, and for his players to learn from every game. He saw a team that probably thought it had the game in hand at halftime, and one that nearly let it slip away, albeit abetted by cylinder rule and inconsistent interpretations on offensive and defensive rights.
West, for his part, knew that he and his teammates couldn’t panic when Carter, Daxter Miles and Sagaba Konate went to the bench.
“We had to stick to the game plan we originally had. We had to stay focused and handle the run. We just want to listen to the coaches, and when the game comes down to the end make our free throws.”
Whether or not the Mountaineers did so is open for debate, and that’s what drew Huggins attention, not the early run that had the WVU fans in attendance dominating the Petersen Events Center with their cheers. The question is, can he get his message through? West Virginia has two games that should be wins after Saturday’s exhibition contest before Big 12 play opens, and those are prime chances to correct some of the problems that Huggins sees. There’s no doubt that this West Virginia team has come a long way since that opening game — much further than most observers expected. Huggins has to be privately pleased with that progress. Now, though, he sees the pathway to more — for a team that was hit hard with personnel losses to make another strong run in the Big 12. It can’t do it, though, playing as it did during stretches of the second half against a middling Pitt team.