Is West Virginia On The Uptick After Topsy-Turvy Three Weeks?

Mountaineers Continue Recent Impressive Play, Shock Sooners On The Road


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Rumors of West Virginia’s demise are apparently greatly exaggerated.

That’s the often-quoted Mark Twain line following the gossip and hearsay about the author’s death. But after the Mountaineers buried themselves about two fathoms down with the five losses in six games, it seemed a reasonable assumption.

The issues were obvious. There was zero offensive flow or execution. WVU was unable to hit any sort of shots. Press Virginia had become a shell of itself, allowing more than 50 points in consecutive halves against Kentucky and  Iowa State. The Cyclones, a team that was flirting with last place in the league, crushed the Mountaineers 93-77 just six days ago. The 15-1 start and No. 2 national ranking seemed so yesterday, yesterdaaaaaay.

West Virginia forward Sagaba Konate (50) prepares to rise to block a dunk attempt (AP Photo/Kyle Phillips)

But in battling the flu that raged through the team, the Mountaineers seemed to hit a reset button of sorts as head coach Bob Huggins pushed all the right ones. After giving up more than 50 points, WVU suddenly scored that many in the second half against K-State last Saturday, then put up another 50 on Oklahoma in the opening stanza of Monday night’s epic. It accompanied a defensive resurgence in which West Virginia tried a new-look zone versus the Wildcats and were able to limit the scoring around Trae Young to where the guard’s 32 points – and his one assist against six turnovers – weren’t quite enough for the Sooners, who lost at home for the first time since the last time they played West Virginia back on Feb. 8 of 2017.

It’s all been  topsy-turvy three weeks that could be just the preface to a Big 12 battle that figures to go down to the wire, what with Kansas already having lost three times in Allen Fieldhouse along this year and WVU’s win at Oklahoma pulling the Mountaineers within half a game of the Jayhawks and a Texas Tech team ranked seventh nationally.

“We had to grind it out,” Huggins said. “That’s what people have come to expect from us.”

Though not of late. It appeared the slump was way more than just that. But now, after holding Oklahoma 25 points below its season home scoring average and with two victories in the pocket and a pair of home games on the horizon, this 18-6, 7-4 team looks like the one with energy and enthusiasm that dominated through the midpoint of the schedule.

Those aspects of play were displayed again in Norman, as the first half played out completely differently than the second. WVU came out hot, hitting 57 percent from the field while knocking down eight three-pointers. Five of those came from Lamont West, who rallied West Virginia from down 14-9 to a 26-15 lead with his hot shooting that spurred a 14-1 push.

It was a showcase of just how much effort and execution the Mountaineers could flash off a 48-hour turnaround that concerned Huggins. WVU controlled the boards, used Sags Konate effectively as a rim protector and rotated the backcourt in guarding Young. The bench was also effective, as West’s 17 led a 19-point effort from that group that helped forge the 50-42 advantage at the break.

But that segued into several scoring lulls in a second half marred by far more missed shots and some more rugged defense on both sides. West Virginia led by at at two different points, but did go scoreless over the first 5:26 of the second half as the Sooners rallied. The Mountaineers didn’t even shoot their first free throws until the 13:46 mark – of the second half.

But there was enough on defense that the lead, while lessened, was never lost. OU missed 10 straight shots in one stretch, and struggled in keeping West Virginia, a team which ranks second in the NCAA in offensive rebounds per game at 14.9, off the offensive glass as the Mountaineers got to that average. Combine that with the 15 turnovers forced – six by Young – and there was enough nerve and reserve to fuel a huge road victory that halted Oklahoma’s 14-game home winning streak and slowed an 11-0 home start this season.

WVU has now won two in a row, while OU dropped its fifth game in seven. West Virginia has won four of the last five in the series and, but picked up just their second all-time win in Norman.

Home forums Is West Virginia On The Uptick After Topsy-Turvy Three Weeks?

This topic contains 10 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by Butlereer Butlereer .

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  • #50629
    Matt Keller
    Matt Keller
    Muskets:

    Mountaineers Continue Recent Impressive Play, Shock Sooners On The Road MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Rumors of West Virginia’s demise are apparently greatly ex
    [See the full post at: Is West Virginia On The Uptick After Topsy-Turvy Three Weeks?]

    #50640
    Kevin Kinder
    Kevin Kinder
    Muskets:

    We all can get caught up in the here and now when reacting to wins and losses, but this is a very reasoned look at reasons WVU might be priming itself for much better play. Flu recovery is still a factor, but with more rest coming between now and Saturday, maybe the outbreak is behind the Mountaineers.

    That would leave another question (isn’t there always). Keep Beetle in the starting lineup, or get Dax back when he is fully recovered?

    #50649

    Ccteam
    Muskets:

    Big victory last night. And the last defensive play was superb. Konate, of all people poked the ball away from Young, and then Esa got a block on the last shot. Not to mention Esa and Carter slowing their roll in the back court. Excellent defense.

    #50652
    Butlereer
    Butlereer
    Muskets:

    3 keys to the victory IMO..
    #1. West got his shot back in rhythm. This was a huge lift in spreading the floor. Without that their wings collapsed into the lane.
    #2. Esa is back. Beside his 14 pts, his 5 reb and fighting in the paint was something that we haven’t seen yet this year…… or most of the last two. He’s become more aggressive both on O and D. He had a couple very good in-your-face slams.
    #3. Beetle……. nuff said. This kid not only can shoot the 3 and force them to spread the floor, he can D. Not only take charges, but his on ball D has dramatically improved lately. IMO this is the biggest plus for the team.

    #50665

    Ccteam
    Muskets:

    Nice analysis, but. I don’t trust Esa won’t disappear again next game. WV needs him to be solid every game. Hopefully he will deliver.

    #50676
    Butlereer
    Butlereer
    Muskets:

    IMO of 1,2 or 3, the one that is more permanent is #3. Beetle has progressed every game and seems to be getting better the more he’s counted on. This definitely gives us 3 G’s that are interchaneable. West will always be streaky. Shooters always are. This is where Harris needs to pick it up. Now, Esa is the wild card. If he can be the dominate Wing that we need, we will go far in the dance. If he disappears then we will struggle.

    #50704
    Allen
    Allen
    Muskets:

    Bettle has listened well to Carter’s teaching. Bettle looks up to Carter. You can see it.

    #50707
    Butlereer
    Butlereer
    Muskets:

    Big brother teaching the young jedi.

    #50720

    NoPittyHere
    Muskets:

    We all can get caught up in the here and now when reacting to wins and losses, but this is a very reasoned look at reasons WVU might be priming itself for much better play. Flu recovery is still a factor, but with more rest coming between now and Saturday, maybe the outbreak is behind the Mountaineers.

    That would leave another question (isn’t there always). Keep Beetle in the starting lineup, or get Dax back when he is fully recovered?

    I hope Beetle stays in the starting role–or simply give him way more PT than Dax. He’s earned it.

    #50740

    Papillion
    Muskets:

    We all can get caught up in the here and now when reacting to wins and losses, but this is a very reasoned look at reasons WVU might be priming itself for much better play. Flu recovery is still a factor, but with more rest coming between now and Saturday, maybe the outbreak is behind the Mountaineers.

    That would leave another question (isn’t there always). Keep Beetle in the starting lineup, or get Dax back when he is fully recovered?

    I like Bolden starting. This is better for Dax because he can take that Paige/Phillip role. Plus, with Beetle starting that means a better chance of getting the jump on teams in the beginning of games because he’s by far the better scorer between the two players.

    #50741
    Butlereer
    Butlereer
    Muskets:

    Bolden not only the better scorer, he’s a much better ball handler. This allows JC to play off the ball a little more. Dax is still the better defender and he gets more rebounds. But Beetle’s D has improved significantly thru this year.

    Of course, we give up a lot of height with Beetle vs Dax. There is a trade off.

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