Halfcourt Defense Primary Focus For Huggins & WVU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia smothered Morgan State and not just with the press.
These Mountaineers utilized solid halfcourt defense and the ability to extend out to stress the Bears, creating 27 turnovers and scoring 36 points off such. The ability to defend the rim in the set was a key for head coach Bob Huggins, who wanted to see more of that after failing to do so in the opener versus Texas A&M.
“We weren’t keeping anyone in front of us before,” Huggins said. “That’s the biggest thing. I thought our halfcourt defense was really good for most of the game. They couldn’t make a pass.”
Morgan State couldn’t do much of anything. The Bears went without a field goal for a stretch of more than eight minutes, and were dominated on the boards (49-29) while West Virginia racked up seven blocks and 10 steals which segued into a sizzling 58.4 percentage from the field. Jevon Carter had four steals, and Sags Konate tallied four blocks a game after Huggins chose not to play the forward because of a lack of effort.
Even Logan Routtt and Magic Bender flashed their length, while Wes Harris and Teddy Allen locked up their man and cut off both passing lanes and penetration to the bucket. It was an impressive display even versus an overmatched foe, and it should give West Virginia a base with which to operate going into a stretch of four games in one week starting against Long Beach State on Monday.
“I think there was one possession where their center would dribble the ball for about 20 seconds because no one could get open,” Huggins said. “That’s how we want to play. We wanted to force them as high as we could possibly force them and keep it on one side of the floor. Hopefully, that makes the guys that they don’t want to dribble, dribble. Sounds easier than it is.”
Which is among the reasons the Mountaineers weren’t as proficient at it, even against American. This time, fueled by better execution and continued hustle throughout, WVU showed itself as the far superior team, and one which is starting to grasp the basics of what Huggins wants in moving foes up the line and being able to force the ball beyond the perimeter for extended periods.
All of that will loom large as the competition gets tougher, and the games take on a tournament feel at the AdvoCare Invitational in Lake Buene Vista, Fla. starting Thanksgiving Day.
“They know what’s coming,” Hugins said while mentioning the team’s early practice hour on Sunday. “They know we have to put some work in at 5 o’clock. They’ll be all right. We are going to do that, then we are going to play two games in a row and then we play another in Florida. I like it this time a year because it really helps conditioning.”