Ensconced in Duquesne defenders, almost to the point of complete obscurity, Deniz Kilicli attempted precisely one first-half shot Tuesday night. It came on a rebound tip-in less than three minutes after tipoff.
His second shot attempt didn’t come until 15:49 remained in the game, on a transition layup, and even though the shot was swatted from behind by Duquesne’s Sean Jones, a piece of Kilicli had to be thrilled merely to touch the ball around the rim.
With West Virginia (4-4) plagued once again by inconsistent perimeter shooting, Duquesne (6-4) packed its defense deeper and deeper into the paint, essentially choking Kilicli and the Mountaineers’ other post players out of the half-court offense.
“Even if you get a post position and it’s really low, there’s three people on us all the time,” Kilicli said outside a somber WVU locker room at Consol Energy Center. “If I get the ball, I can’t turn, because there’s a guy here and a guy there.”
The claustrophobia is sure to only worsen four Kilicli once the Duquesne game film goes viral. Opposing coaches may be tempted to place five defenders around the block/charge arc and dare West Virginia to make middle-school jumpers.
“The last two games you can see everybody staying in the paint and letting us shoot it — we’ve got to make those,” said Kilicli who finished with six points on 3-of-8 shooting in 33 minutes. “We had wide-open shots. I’m not blaming on those guys that shoot the ball … (but) if those shots don’t go in, we’re not scoring.”
Coach Bob Huggins simplified the outcome: “They made open shots and we didn’t.”
In the previous game against Virginia Tech, WVU made 10-of-24 3-pointers and won 68-67. But when Jim Ferry’s Duquesne defense clogged the lane and dared the Mountaineers to repeat that performance, they shot just 4-of-18 on 3s, missed countless mid-range jumpers and shot 33 percent overall.
West Virginia’s three starting guards combined to go 9-of-32. Point guard Juwan Staten’s 5-of-16 factored heavily into that stat, though on several occasions he had to force up tough shots late in the shot clock.
“When teams give you open shots, you’ve got to punish that,” Kilicli said. “Wide-open 15-footers, wide-open 12-footers, we’ve got to make those — it’s like a free throw.”
Then again, free throws may not be Kilicli’s best example, considering he was 0-for-2 at the line, twice missing the front ends of one-and-ones in the second half. West Virginia, after making all seven foul shots in building a 36-23 halftime advantage, missed five of six from the line as the game tightened in the second half.
“We just got drilled today on the glass, absolutely drilled.”
— Coach Bob Huggins after WVU was outrebounded 43-39
SHOOTING NO EXCUSE
Despite the team’s horrid shooting night, guard Matt Humphrey contended West Virginia should have won the game by working harder in other facets. For example, Duquesne frequently outran WVU in transition during the second half (leading to an 18-8 edge in fast-break points) and, most surprisingly, the shorter Dukes won the rebounding category.
“(Huggins) tells us everyday he’s had teams that don’t make jumpshots and they still won because they played defense and rebound,” Humphrey said. “I tell you what: If we don’t make these jumpshots but we get back on defense, it’s a hell of a lot different game.”
Emerging from the locker room a few seconds after Huggins, Humphrey summarized his coach’s postgame mood: “He’s pissed, as he should be. This is not a game we should lose.”
WVU center Aaric Murray played only 13 minutes, and just three in the second half, on his way to a dismal two-point output on 1-of-4 shooting. He picked up his third foul via technical with 18:04 left in the game.
It was a steep dropoff from his production against Virginia Tech, when he had 15 points and seven rebounds.
QUOTABLE, part II
“We knew we couldn’t hit a 13-point shot to come back, but we talked about getting one stop at a time, one block out at a time. It was really all about grinding it out.”
— Duquesne coach Jim Ferry after his team trailed 36-23 at half
BY THE NUMBERS
36 — Points in the paint for Duquesne, compared to 20 for WVU
28 — Bench points for the Dukes, compared to 24 for the Mountaineers
56 — West Virginia’s point total was the fewest scored by a Duquesne opponent this season
Duquesne broke an eight-game losing streak to West Virginia and did so with last season’s coach, Ron Everhart, assisting on the West Virginia bench.
Ferry, hired from LIU-Brooklyn a month after Everhart’s firing last spring, downplayed the coaching drama: “This game wasn’t about Ron and me.”