Early and late in Texas’ 72-70 win over West Virgnia, the Longhorns drove the ball with impunity against the Mountaineer defense, but those two segments of the game weren’t an aberration. For much of the contest, UT’s guards and ballhandlers were able to get into the lane fairly easily, and as a result got a number of easy shots.
A review of the game film shows that Texas had 35 drives in which it was able to get all the way to the rim with a straight or mostly direct drive, or so deep into the lane that it resulted in a very good shot or a pass to an open teammate for an uncontested attempt. This count includes drives in transition, of which there were a few, and also includes penetration which didn’t result in a Texas basket.
The count does not include times in which WVU forced dribblers to take a circuitous route to the lane, or when it was able to head off penetration to negate any potential Texas advantage. Those are usually wins for the defense, as it allows time for teammates to recover.
That makes the count – admittedly one that included some judgment calls – alarming. With the Mountaineers lacking another defense upon which it can call or execute effectively, as many of its best teams have been able to do, opponents are going to be ultra-aggressive in pushing the ball downhill.
West Virginia needs to be able to keep Derek Culver on the court. But is there a limit to that? The Mountaineers, more than ever, can’t see their big man saddled with foul trouble, and look to have been working with him to be less risky in challenging shooters in the lane. (That’s smart on multiple fronts, as shot blocking isn’t one of his many strengths.) In the process, though, Culver has been on the court for 71 of the possible 80 minutes of the last two games.
His previous game time high was 34 against Gonzaga and Kansas, and he has only one other game (South Dakota State) in which he has logged 30 minutes. Now, however, as the physical grind of Big 12 play starts to kick in, there has to be at least a bit of an eye given to his minutes, so he doesn’t get worn down and can still be effective at the ends of games.
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Has WVU’s change of offensive style affected the play of Gabe Osabuohien?
That seems a bit counter-intuitive, as the need for more strength defensively and on the boards has become necessary, but his minutes and productivity have dropped over the past week. In those two games, he has seen only 24 minutes of action while grabbing a total of just two rebounds. His playing time against Oklahoma State may have been affected a bit by foul trouble, as he accumulated four in 13 minutes, but other strengths of his game have also been lacking. After racking up 26 assists and distributing the ball well in his first 11 games, he added just one to his total this week while suffering four turnovers.
Hopefully this is just a blip in the long slog of the season, and there’s no question that his effort will be at peak levels to reverse the results of the past two games. Without question, the Mountaineers need his energy, defensive chops, rebounding and ball movement to be successful.