Preview: WVU – Long Beach State
SCOUTING THE 49ERS
Coming off a loss to Oregon State, Long Beach State is in the midst of a lengthy road trip. The Niners played at Corvallis, Ore., on Saturday, then headed to Morgantown to face WVU Monday night. From there, they will trek on to Florida to continue play in the AdvoCare Invitational over Thanksgiving weekend. They’ll then face Arizona next Wednesday to complete a string of six consecutive games away from home.
Balanced scoring marks the 49er offense, as five players average in double figures and four more chip in with 4-6 points per game. Swingman Barry Ogalue (6-5, 195 lbs.) makes an efficient 61.1% of his shots on the way to 17.3 points per game, and he also stands second in rebounding with 5.3 per outing. Forward Gabe Levin (6-7, 230 lbs.) adds in 11.7 points and a team high nine rebounds per contest, and while fellow frontcourt starter Mason Riggins (6-8, 230 lbs.) chips in six points and 2.5 boards. Bryan Alberts (6-5, 200 lbs.) hits 41.7% of his threes on the way to 15.3 points, and Deishuan Booker (6-3, 170 lbs.) contributes 6.4 points and four assists per game.
Long Beach has a deep bench, with Edon Maxhuni (6-2, 185 lbs.) and Jordan Griffin (6-3, 165 lbs.) both averaging ten points per game off the bench. Griffin is doing so in just 15 minutes per game, and hits 58.8% of his shots, including 64.3% of his threes. Nine players get at least 11.3 minutes per game, and two more top seven, allowing Long Beach to play an uptempo game that has yielded an average of 86.3 points per game this year. Conversely, they will play a good bit of zone defense, which can have an effect of slowing the pace, but a plus-five rebounding edge and an effective transition game allows them to get points at a high rate.
Quick turnarounds can sometimes be problematic, especially in terms of specific preparation for a specific team, but for WVU the current quick run of games (five in eight days) is probably more beneficial than bad. The chance for a number of repetitions in quick succession, followed by feedback and a chance to improve a day or two later, might be one of the best ways in which to get better
|WVU (2-1) vs. LBSU (2-1)||Mon Nov 20||7:00 PM EST|
|WVU Coliseum||Morgantown, WV||Series: WVU 2-0|
|RPI: WVU – 112 LBSU – 28||TV: AT&T SportsNet||Sirius/XM: 135 / 964|
It’s not a magic bullet, though. As head coach Bob Huggins has pointed out, there are so many things that WVU needs to work on, and not enough time to do them in, that improvement in all areas is going to be best measured in weeks, not days. Still, there was noticeable betterment in several areas from the American game to Morgan State, including ball movement in the halfcourt, transition passing and overall intensity.
“We have been working against zone all week,” center Logan Routt noted after the Morgan State win. “Repetition in practice, make sure guys get in the right spots. Long Beach State runs a lot of zone, so that gave us a chance to work on it against [Morgan State] .”
That’s not to suggest that Morgan State is a foe on the level of what WVU will face later this year. Still, it’s at least an encouraging step, and sets up a big item to watch in this game. Can the Mountaineers continue to improve in multiple areas, and string together step after step through the week’s games? With school out of session, it’s a basketball-only week for West Virginia, and one in which it might have the chance to improve more than it does during any other equivalent stretch of the year.
Long Beach State, despite a lack of imposing size, has rebounded the ball well early. Levin, Ogalue and K.J. Byers do a good bit of the work on the boards, but the 49ers work well as a team in retrieving the ball, and that’s a match-up that will be key here — not to mention one that will determine much of West Virginia’s success this year. The Mountaineers are playing more three-guard lineups, and without a dominant worker on the glass, the team approach is vital. Huggins expressed his displeasure with a couple of players for their lack of work in that area against Morgan State, so keep an eye on the rebounding column for players like Teddy Allen, Wesley Harris and Lamont West. They have to be active, and keep their opposite numbers contained.
This game is a “non-bracketed” part of the AdvoCare Invitational, which begins in earnest on Thursday. Teams are allowed to play up to four games in a tournament setting each year, but no more than 27 other regular season games if they play in a tournament. (They can play a 29 regular season games if they do not participate in a tournament.) As a result, every team in the nation wants to participate in an in-season tournament, because it gets them two extra games. Most of the in-season tournaments include eight teams, which works out to three games per team. Thus, a designated fourth game (with a team from the other side of the bracket)
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Alberts, Maxhuni and Griffin have comined to make all but one of Long Beach State’s 3-pointers this year. They own 24 of the successful shots — Booker owns the other. Defensively, that should be a fairly easy recognition assignment for WVU. Five players haven’t even attempted a three, and four others are a combined 1-16.
For WVU, Beetle Bolden is off to a hot start from beyond the arc. The redshirt sophomore is hitting 50% of his tries, and is showing an even quicker release than he did a year ago. Defenders don’t have much time to close out on him if the ball gets swung to him quickly — he elevates much higher than his height might suggest, and his release is like that of a top quarterback getting rid of the ball in the face of a blitz.
Bolden, along with Jevon Carter, are the only Mountaineers to have scored in double figures in all three games this year.
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Bolden’s shooting is just part of WVU’s better performance in that area in the early stages of the season. The Mountaineers are shooting 48.1% from the field (79th nationally) and are at 54.5% (82nd) in effective shooting percentage. Those numbers aren’t awesome, but are an improvement over past seasons.