MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Bob Huggins dug into his hip pocket, removing several wads of paper folded around a business card.
“I’ve got some very alarming stats,” he announced.
Huggins then unfolded a small piece of paper, where several figures were scrawled out in pencil. This, fittingly, is the nexus of the Huggy Bear School of Analytics.
“Uncontested field goals — that’s if a guy is seven feet or further in front of you — we’re 54-for-169. 32 percent. That’s with nobody guarding you,” Huggins said.
He wasn’t done yet.
“Catch-and shoot. You catch, step into it and shoot it. Not off the bounce,” he said. “We’re 73-for-243. 30 percent. Uncontested catch-and-shoot shots? We’re 25-for-89. 28 percent.
“You want to know why we’ve lost four games? We can’t shoot.”
Despite possessing this treasure trove of data, Huggins does think the Mountaineers are capable of breaking out of that habit. It begins not with better shooting, but better passing.
“If you’ve got to field it off your ankles, or jump to field it and come back down to get yourself together, you’re probably going to get fouled up,” Huggins said. “Great passers make even bad shooters decent shooters. The more movement there is in your shot, the more chance for error.”
The improved passing is something sophomore point guard Jordan McCabe and freshman point guard Miles McBride have to grow into.
“Everybody expects all this out of Jordan. Jordan played a bunch of guys his size [in high school],” Huggins said. “Now he’s playing 6-4, long guys. He’s trying to figure out how to get it around those guys, not where to hit the [open] guy. Experience has a ton to do with it.”
It is specifically three-point shooting that remains an Achilles heel for the Mountaineers, and one that needs solving as opposing defenses try any means necessary to neutralize Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver in the paint.
West Virginia is 313th in the country from three-point range, making only 30.1 percent of its attempts. That puts the Mountaineers on pace to be Huggins’ worst three-point shooting team since 2012, and second-worst three-point shooting team he’s had since the line was invented.
He finds it difficult to believe that will still be the case at the end of the season.
“I think we’re gonna come out of it,” Huggins said. “I made a conscious effort to try to recruit guys who can shoot. Look at how Taz Sherman struggled. He’s starting to come out of it. You would think at some point Sean McNeil is going to come out of it. Jordan is shooting 20 percent. He’s a better shooter than that.
“You would think by the law of averages, if nothing else, that they’d start making some more shots.”
Knapper cleared to play
Guard Brandon Knapper, who missed the Texas Tech game due to illness, is cleared to return against Kansas State on Saturday. Knapper was benched for the Texas game and played only one minute against Missouri, but appears to be back in Huggins’ good graces.
“He was good [in practice],” Huggins said. “He had the flu. He shot pretty good.”
Not the ideal formula
Huggins is encouraged by the continued development of Gabe Osabuohien as a scorer — though he hopes to never again see Osabuohien leading the team in scoring, as he did with 15 points against Texas Tech.
“It’s a really bad thing when he’s our leading scorer,” Huggins noted.
Prior to West Virginia’s first meeting with Kansas State on Jan. 18, Osabuohien was averaging 1.8 points per game.
Kansas State (9-11, 2-5) at No. 12 West Virginia (16-4, 4-3)
Time: 2 p.m.
Last meeting: Kansas State won, 84-68 in Manhattan, Kan. on Jan. 18