WVU’s Knapper Continues Improvement Steps
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia guard Brandon Knapper took another small improvement step in West Virginia’s 74-72 win over Jacksonville State on Saturday afternoon, but admits that there is still much work to be done if the Mountaineers are to climb out of the four-loss hole they have dug themselves in November and December.
Knapper scored 12 points and made two of his five 3-point attempts against the Gamecocks while dishing out three assists in 22 minutes of action.
“We had a lot of practice this week. We tried to limit those mistakes,” Knapper said of the week of practice between the Rhode Island loss last week and the narrow victory over JSU. “We just have to get better and prepare for the Big 12 conference. There’s areas we need to improve in. We’re not where we want to be right now, but I feel like we can continue to get better every game. We just have to stay together and have trust in each other.”
Knapper had one of the best games of his young career on Saturday, but still has some lapses that mystify head coach Bob Huggins.
“I thought Knap was playing really well, then he just hands the ball to them for some reason unbeknownst to anyone other than him,” Huggins said with a mixture of bemusement and frustration. “Why does that happen? Why do you have the ball in two hands and it just pops out?”
A couple of plays such as that put three turnovers on Knapper’s stat line, but to his credit he didn’t let those multiply into other mistakes as they have previously. While he’s still a good bit from claiming the point guard job as his own, he showed some flashes of being able to handle more of that workload in the future. That could, in turn, make for a better overall rotation in the backcourt, with Beetle Bolden handling more at the two guard while Knapper and Jermaine Haley, who isn’t as dynamic but who is also protecting the ball better, man the point.
“That would be a good situation,” Knapper said, while noting that he could also play off the ball if need be. “If we can get Beetle and Jermaine and me, and then Jordan McCabe in that rotation, I think we would be a tough backcourt to guard.”
First up, though, is cutting down those turnovers. West Virginia wasn’t awful in that statistic on Saturday, committing 14, but with every possession vital for a team that has struggled to run its offense efficiently, that’s job one as league play looms after next Sunday’s non-conference game against Lehigh.