MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Coming off a teaching week that featured an in-season exhibition game, No. 10 West Virginia apparently requires more instruction.
Coach Bob Huggins remains dissatisfied with the full-court press even though the Mountaineers (9-1) rank fourth nationally in forced turnovers at 20.6 per game. What he saw during Saturday’s 98-50 win over Division II Wheeling Jesuit, once he looked beyond the blowout margin of victory, only left him more worried.
Huggins wants tighter traps, better pursuit angles and more defensive intensity as his team prepares to face Coppin State (0-11) on Wednesday night.
“Ball pressure is a wonderful thing when it comes to defense,” he said. “If you’ve got pressure on the ball, people worry about unloading it as fast as they can.
“We weren’t where we supposed to be on the help side, so instead of the court shrinking we made it bigger. We’ve got to get our pressure straightened out.”
During a nine-game winning streak, West Virginia occasionally has abandoned its press for a 1-3-1 zone, primarily when coping with foul trouble. Huggins figures both will be needed once the Big 12 round-robin begins later this month.
Point guard Jevon Carter’s defense hasn’t wained, though. as he continues to pace the country in steals. His offensive game has elevated also, with 17.8 points and 6.1 assists.
Fellow senior Daxter Miles scores 14.1 and stands seven points shy of the career 1,000 mark. Forward Lamont West (12.3 points) and backup guard Beetle Bolden (10.1 points) also are 3-point threats, though Bolden is questionable after spraining his ankle in the exhibition.
Coppin State arrives under first-year coach Juan Dixon, the former All-American point guard who led Maryland to the 2002 national title. Shining moments have been rare at Dixon’s new job, where the Eagles sport a 301 RPI and a 14-game losing streak that dates back to last season. They arrive on an eight-day break since losing at UMBC 81-74, one of 10 road games so far for the MEAC program.
Logging long miles and piling up lopsided losses, Coppin State has fallen at venue such as Oregon (70-54), Cincinnati (97-54), Rutgers (69-34), UConn (72-59), Georgetown (76-60), East Carolina (76-50) and Ohio (80-37).
“At times you can see that I get frustrated,” Dixon said, “but for the most part I try to keep my composure, be calm in every situation and remain confident no matter what the score is. The guys feed off my confidence and energy.
“Our guys are getting better. The record may not indicate it, but later on in the season we are going to see a lot more success.”
Top scorer Dejuan Clayton, the Eagles’ lone double-digit scorer (10.2 points) has not appeared in the past five games.
Coppin State (0-11) at No. 10 West Virginia (9-1)
Tipoff: Wednesday, 7 p.m. (AT&T Sportsnet)
The skinny: The Mountaineers are 16-0 all-time against opponents from the MEAC, currently the lowest-RPI conference in Division I with nine of 13 members sitting outside the top 300.
RPIs: West Virginia 11, Coppin State 301
Prediction: West Virginia 94-64