Forced Into A Halfcourt Contest, WVU Turns To Bench Scoring In Win
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It’s not history, but it’s getting there.
West Virginia won its 13th consecutive game, beating Kansas State 77-69 on the road on New Year’s Day for its longest winning streak since 1988-89. That’s 29 years, or longer than every player on the roster has been alive and then some. This one was done in classic Gold and Blue fashion – or rather the black and blue style as it typically is against the Wildcats.
It lacked the up-and-down flow the No. 6 Mountaineers typically prefer, tying for the third-lowest scoring output in a win this season. Frankly, WVU played K-State’s brand of basketball and still emerged victorious, largely because of a 38-27 advantage on the boards and a whopping 40-18 edge in points in the paint. That offset committing three more turnovers (18-15) and allowing 25 points off such.
“I didn’t want to get into their style of play and we pretty much did that,” head coach Bob Huggins said. “It’s a crazy thing but if you don’t do something every day it slips. Our double teams slipped and they were able to pass the ball out of double teams. That’s why (Xavier) Sneed had 20. It was out of double teams when we were supposed to be double-teaming. We just don’t do a good job of double teaming.”
The game was largely played in the halfcourt, West Virginia unable to force the pace against a team that loves to pack the interior and force shots from outside. But the Mountaineers (13-1) were able to get balanced scoring, putting four players in double figures led by a game-high 22 points from Teddy Allen off the bench. The freshman was fantastic in the Huggins’ cut-and-fill offense, using his frame and strength to score off the bounce and attack the bucket while hitting 8-of-12 shots in nearly matching his career high of 24 set against Coppin State.
It was the second straight similar performance from Allen, who was able to get free on the low block via screens and hit back down shots and jumpers from the baseline in West Virginia’s 85-79 win at Oklahoma State to open the two-game trip. Along with Lamont West and, at times, Wes Harris (fouled out with 4:29 left) Allen has become the back-up scoring option when Jevon Carter and Dax Miles aren’t producing.
West hit for 19 points via a 7-for-10 effort, giving the duo 41 points – or more than half WVU’s total output. That offset Carter’s three-point game – his lowest since scoring two points versus Iowa State his sophomore season – though he tallied 10 assists and eight rebounds in another ultra-solid overall outing.
Miles added 10 points, while Beetle Bolden also reached double figures at 10. The reserve scoring – the Mountaineer bench bested K-State’s back-ups 34-11 – helped ride out another grinder, this a game in which West Virginia failed to create more shots (both teams had 56) but got much better looks while taking 10 fewer threes than the Wildcats.
“I don’t know how we do it, but somehow we do it,” Huggins said. “Teddy stepped up this game and we have different guys step up. We have to get a lot more consistent with our offense. Lamont made big shots before Teddy. (It was) rebounding and I think we got shots closer to the goal. We didn’t get good shots at times and then we got pretty good shots.”
“We force things. They were driving it at us and going to the foul line and so our guys tried to drive it at them and we fell down and didn’t do it very well. We went to the backdoor just to get them moving and turning their head. You got 10 eyes watching you when you stand there and dribble. You gotta move people and it’s hard to move people when the ball sticks. We had a lot of stick’em on the ball. We go backdoor and they start cheating the cuts; it gets people moving an chasing and that’s what you want. You can’t play against their halfcourt defense. You have to get them to move and turn your head and chase you.”
It was, in the end, a classic WVU-Kansas State clash, played in a methodical style and deliberate pace. But it was the Mountaineers with better ball movement and shot selection while continuing the trend of excellence at the line. West Virginia made made 13-of-16 to finish the two-game set at 40-for-48 overall, an 83.3 percent rate. It was quite the statement in the early going in the Big 12 in gaining a pair of big road wins while doing it in dogged, determined fashion.
Up next? No. 7 Oklahoma inside the Coliseum at 7:15 p.m. Saturday. The Sooners (11-1) are led by guard Trae Young, a seemingly surefire first round NBA pick who averages 30 points and an NCAA-best 10.7 assists. The freshman hit for 39 points in OU’s 90-89 win over No. 10 TCU on Dec. 30.
“Let me tell you something: I have watched them on TV. They are really, really good and Trae Young is the deal,” Huggins said. “Hopefully it is an enthusiastic crowd because we are going to need some help. They are talented.”