Miles’ Passing Sets Up Win Over Oklahoma State
There’s no doubt that the scoring of Teddy Allen and a defensive switch in the second half were major factors in West Virginia’s 85-79 comeback win over Oklahoma State on Friday, but the key to much of WVU’s success on the offensive end lay in the hands of Daxter Miles — although not in the way that many observers might think.
The Mountaineers’ most recent member of the 1,000-point club, Miles has been an acrobatic driver and scorer of the ball throughout his career, and its there that thoughts first turn when thinking of his contributions when West Virginia has the ball. However, for many stretches this year, including one for much of the second half of the OSU win, it has been his passing — especially from the high post — that has keyed the steadying of the WVU attack.
Seeing Miles, or other guards, in the high post is a bit of an anomaly in classic basketball tactics to begin with. A standard high post, or high-low post, offense will see two bigs in those spots around the lane. Those taller post players can then pass the ball over the intervening defense, and have a better view of the court, to take advantage of those cutting to the basket or finding open spots on the blocks.
Of course, head coach Bob Huggins is not about convention, and he excels at getting players into positions where they can take advantage of their strengths. Thus, while younger post and wing players are still learning about interior passing, Huggins has deployed Miles as the high post distributor in several different games this year. Although he doesn’t have the height to see over the defense, his experience and understanding of the game have allowed him to succeed there, getting the ball to teammates in the lane for good shots.
Against Oklahoma State, WVU’s offense broke down after some very early success. The Cowboys did a good job of pressuring exterior passing lanes to the wings and corners, and the Mountaineers weren’t able to get the defense moving or out of shape to exploit it. However, in the second half, WVU ran Miles to the high post more, and that move, along with using Allen along the baseline and in the post, got the attack back into gear. Allen, who is still working to determine the best time to drive it and to pass it, was relieved of some of that decision-making by putting him close to the basket at the start, where he didn’t have to worry about driving the ball from the wing. He worked off picks and screens, and Miles found him with regularity, earning five assists as Allen scored a game-high 15 points on 7-11 shooting from the field.
This isn’t the first time that Miles has worked in the high post, but it is an aspect of WVU’s game that hasn’t been discussed a great deal. Coming to WVU, he probably never had the idea that he would be a distributor of the ball from a spot usually reserved for bigger players, but he’s become very good at it, and makes excellent decisions as to when he can get the ball to teammates or when to back it out and reset the play. Without this game-turning change, the Mountaineers would have left Stillwater 0-1, rather than 1-0, in the Big 12 Conference.
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Defensively, the key move of the game wasn’t something WVU did in the press — it was getting out of it.
Oklahoma State did an excellent job of moving the ball to the deep corner once it broke the press, giving WVU long runs in order to rotate and cover shooters. When it didn’t, OSU hit a couple a threes. When it did, the Cowboys attacked the rim well, especially when Sagaba Konate wasn’t on the court. As a result, they shot 63.6% from the field in the first half.
In the second, after a few possessions, head coach Bob Huggins dropped the all-out press, and after challenging the inbound pass simply dropped back into man to man. That simple move kept Oklahoma State from getting the open court drives and movement it enjoyed in the first half, and the results were quickly evident. WVU chipped away at the seven-point halftime deficit, and only a two minute stretch of inexplicable mental errors kept the game from being a double-digit Mountaineer win. OSU shot just 40% from the field, and 2-9 from three, in the final 20 minutes. Sometimes it’s not doing something, rather than doing something, that pays the most dividends.