WVU Gameplan: Gang Guard Culver, Make Moretti Bounce It

WVU Gameplan: Gang Guard Culver, Make Moretti Bounce It

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Like many game plans, it was deceptively simple. The difficulty, as it usually does, lies in the execution.

Still, there was much credit to be doled out for West Virginia’s plan to knock off seventh-ranked Texas Tech in the Big 12 Championship, starting with the coaching staff.

Erik Martin
West Virginia assistant coach Erik Martin (r) makes a point

To a man, they credited the players repeatedly with getting the job done, and in that they were certainly on target. But they also are in line for some deserved pats on the back and congratulatory fist bumps.

Assistant coach Erik Martin laid out the framework following WVU’s 79-74 win.

“We wanted to team guard (Jarrett) Culver,” Martin said as he rehydrated following the exciting win. “We started out with Emmitt (Matthews) but we knew Jermaine (Haley) Lamont (West) and Chase (Harler) would have to guard him. They did a great job of doing that. And when possible, just deny him the ball.”

While it’s true that the Red Raider star finished with 26 points, it wasn’t due to bad defense. It took him 24 shots to get there (contrast that with Matthews’ 28, which came on just 14 shots) and in the end that might have worked against Tech a bit. Frustrated in the first half with just six points, Tech switched tactics for much of the second, having Culver bring the ball up the court and start the offense. That gave him more opportunities, but it also might have scrambled up Tech’s offensive output. Culver did score 20 in the final 20 minutes, but it took him 16 shots to do so — more than half of the entire Red Raider total. That, in turn, may have denied others some opportunities.

“The ball is going to be in his his hands, and we knew he would have it,” Martin said of the Tech changeup. “You can’t hold a guy like that down for 40 minutes. He is going to get off at some point.”

A second, less obvious tactic, was also in play.

“We wanted to make (Davide) Moretti bounce the ball. He’s probably been the most efficient player in the Big 12,” Martin said. “We wanted to run at him and make him bounce the ball.”

That tactic, designed to eliminate Moretti’s catch and shoot and perimeter-oriented play, also paid dividends. He did have a pair of 3-pointers, but his open looks were limited.

It’s a testament to Tech’s talent that it was still in position to win the game in the closing minutes, even though WVU executed its game plan well. However, it also pointed out how far this Mountaineer team has come. It forced a pair of 3-ball misses by Culver in the final 12 seconds, sending the entire team onto the court for a celebration.

“It got kind of nervous at the end, but our guys stuck to the game plan,” Martin said. “But that happens when you have freshmen. They had to learn the hard way. I have to give them all the credit. I couldn’t be more happy for our guys, with all they have been through this year.”

And, he might have added, for the coaching staff too.

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