Ben Queen/MetroNews photos

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins yells at Remi Dibo after a defensive lapse in the Mountaineers’ 96-83 win over Duquesne.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Those offensive-minded rule changes driving up scoring across college basketball? They only partially explain why West Virginia is allowing 77 points per game through the season’s first two weeks.

Bob Huggins has evaluated three games’ worth of film and found another culprit—his team’s intensity lapses—and they’re a key reason why the Mountaineers (2-1) aren’t unbeaten heading into the Cancun Challenge.

“We don’t continue to play through plays,” West Virginia’s coach said before Tuesday’s practice. “We play pretty hard and then we kind of figure it’s time for a rest. When you get a little tired and you start standing up, we just get ourselves out of position.

“Some of it is we just lose focus and we end up standing and staring at the ball.”

After clamping down on Mount Saint Mary’s 77-62 in the opener, West Virginia has lost at Virginia Tech (87-82) and outscored Duquesne (96-83), surrendering 45-percent shooting in the two-game stretch. And in each of those games, the opponent had an unlikely scorer emerge. Tech freshman Ben Emelogu scored 22 against WVU (nine points beyond his average in the Hokies’ other three games) and Duquesne’s Micah Mason poured in 18 points—his only dougle-figures scoring night through three games.

“Everybody’s pretty good at finding a weak link” in the defense, Huggins said.

Thursday night’s visitor to the Coliseum, Georgia Southern (2-1), averages 92 points and better than 52 percent shooting, albeit with two wins over Columbia International and Toccoa Falls—teams from the National Christian College Athletic Association (that’s NCCAA with two C’s). More impressive was the Eagles’ 81-80 overtime loss at Miami.

“We need to pick up our defense,” said West Virginia point guard Juwan Staten. “Our defense is struggling a bit. We’re allowing too many teams to score too points against us. It’s something we need to sort out.”

The status of transfer forward Jonathan Holton remains nebulous, with Huggins saying he has received no further word. Holton was a freshman standout at Rhode Island before playing last season at Palm Beach (Fla.) State Community College. The Dominion Post first reported last month that Holton did not graduate from Palm Beach State, making him ineligible to play at an NCAA four-year program until he receives his associates degree.

While Huggins said he hasn’t ruled out Holton playing this season, the possibility of a redshirt increases with each day.

“Eventually we’ll have to make a decision about whether (Holton playing this season) is worth it or not,” Huggins said. “I don’t think we’re there yet. We’ve only played three games.”

Though guard Gary Browne played through a thigh bruise to score 15 points at Virginia Tech, he was sidelined against Duquesne and has struggled in practices.

“He tried to go (Tuesday), but he wasn’t very good. Still very limited,” Huggins said. “Every time it gets bumped it flares back up.”

Only a 32-percent shooter from the floor last year, Browne has made 6-of-10 shots in two games as a junior, improvement Huggins attributed to offseason drills.

“Gary’s got to get healed up because he’s not what he was. He was playing pretty well before he got hurt.”

With Tuesday night’s 39-point outburst fueling a 101-80 win over Memphis, Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart gave national viewers a taste of his NBA-caliber skills. In Morgantown, Staten was paying attention, with two conference matchups forthcoming in January.

“I was very impressed that he had a great game,” Staten said. “That’s just something that drives me to work harder.”

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  • Mister Man

    We will make the NCAA this year.

  • john c

    im drowning in the koolaid huggs has this program primed to make a heck of a run next year this is by far the most athletic team he has had here and add macon holton and miles next year LOOK OUT drink the koolaid its all good!!!

  • shawn

    If you cant look into the 2014-2015 year with excitement then you're an idiot. I'm going to enjoy this year but you have to remember that all of these kids will come back with another year of experience under their belt. 20 win team this year and 25 win team next year. And if Holton would somehow qualify to play this year then you can bump the wins up to 23 or 24 this year.

    • Big Larry


      You said the same thing last year after drinking the Kool-Aid...and they won 13 games...if they win 15 this year they will be doing good.

      20-25 Wins? What on earth are you and the other Huggins sympathizers thinking?

      • shawn

        If they stay healthy they win 20 games


    I like the way these kids sound focused, Staten is paying attention to what is going on around him and the team. Staten Sounds like he as turned the corner as leader. Bob Huggins looks great just what I want to see in a great coach, sharp and deeply focused in what each players needs to accomplish this season to get better. I like the direction this basketball team is heading. It would be great to have Holton out on the floor to give us some help.
    I like are young team and I look forward to watching them get better every week. Gary Brown is a good leader as well and we need him healthy early in the season.

    Let's GOOOOOOOOO!!!Mountaineeeeeeeeeers!!!

    • Big Larry


      Have you ever been drinking the Kool-Aid...

  • Big Larry

    You know it is a sad day when 3 games into the season the fans start talking about "next year"...

    One more thing...Is it just me, or does that picture of Sweatsuit Huggins look like he is drug out? In this picture he looks like he just got run over by a train...

    He should look better...I would if I earned $10,000.00 a day for giving press conferences. WVU surely isn't paying him to win basketball games...

    Just sayin...

    • shawn

      Try doing his job and tell me how you would feel and look. You are probably stuck to a nasty recliner in your smoke stained living room watching reruns of Bonanza.

      • Big Larry

        What's wrong with that?

  • stevewvu

    The shooting has significantly improved and it looks like Devin Williams, Nathan Adrian, and Brandon Watkins are going to be good players much sooner than originally thought.

    Good luck Thursday and Let's Go Mountaineers!

  • jwg66

    Correct, Beilein's teams did not rebound. But they had minimum turnovers, good scorers and a 1-3-1 D that was hard to prepare for. I hope we have reloaded but we have to remember that we have not played as difficult of a schedule so far and we do not have a very deep bench on the front line..... I still think we may be a year away from being a top level team.

  • Big Larry

    I see this team winning 15 games this year at best. They have no size. The "Bigs" in the Big 12 (no pun intended) will eat these little guys up.

    It is what it is. Holton if eligible may make a difference...we'll see.

  • RogerD

    Throughout Coach Huggins' tenure at WVU, (and perhaps before) he has stressed defense along with rebounding. We haven't seen much evidence of that this year. Also, there's been no mention of the old 'treadmill exercises". Has that gone by the wayside? Has the Mr. Luck and the PC administration put an end to that? If so, it shows.

    • Allan Taylor

      @RogerD: Nate Adrian and a couple other players admitted to undergoing "treadmill punishment" during the preseason, so that courtside incentive remains in place.

      • Mister Man

        Thank you. That is true. The treadmill will never go away.

      • shawn

        Its hard to play defense when they call a foul on every little touch.

  • Ole Sasquatch

    We have a John Belien shooting team and a Coach who knows how to teach defense & how to rebound. Look out Big 12. We have reloaded!

    • Rick S.

      I like your enthusiasm, Sasquatch, but I would not call this a Beilein shooting team just yet. Let's see how they do over a longer stretch of the season.

  • Dennis

    The team chemistry at this point appears to be much better than at anytime last year. If the players can maintain their work ethic, they will suprise a lot of people this year.

    • Allan Taylor

      @Dennis: You're right about the upgrade in team chemistry, though that was almost a given after the depths to which it sunk last year. Still not sure how this group will fare against good teams, considering it's 2-1 against three average to subpar ones so far. But there's some cause for optimism.

      • Rock Solid

        If you can't rebound offensively you can't win against any team worthy of being considered first class, and we are horrible at rebounding. Too small, no Joe Alexanders in this group.

        • Oh Did Ya?

          Devin Williams can rebound and only 3 games into his career. If he sticks around all 4 years he may set some career rebounding records and I think Noreen will step up as the year goes on....the good news for this team is they can score. Without Eron or Terry dropping 20+ we were out of every game last year. Juwan Staten is the most improved player - he looks like a really good PG. I heard from good authority that he outplayed Aaron Craft from Ohio St in the scrimmage.

        • Chuck

          Beilen's teams never rebounded!!!!

          • Rick S.

            Chuck, you are correct that Beilein's teams here were not very good at offensive rebounding. But a large part of that was because the offense was predicated around making the shot in the first place and not needing to rebound it. And they made a lot of shots.