6:00pm: Sportsline with Tony Caridi

Mountaineers seeking better execution against Monmouth

CONWAY, S.C. — It is a fast generation of players Bob Huggins coaches these days.

Cars are fast, food is fast, and Google can give you 84,000 options to any Internet search in 0.53 seconds.

What doesn’t interest Huggins are fast shots on offense, because fast shots generally equal bad shots for the Mountaineers.

Huggins was unimpressed with the way his guards handled their part of West Virginia’s full-court pressure in last week’s 99-94 loss to Buffalo.

As far as changes for West Virginia (0-1) in Thursday’s first-round game against Monmouth in the Myrtle Beach Invitational, showing more patience on offense and fixing the press may be the most noticeable.

Through the research of Josh Eilert, the director of basketball operations, Huggins flipped through pages of information that came out of the Mountaineers’ season-opening loss.

“I think we shoot it too fast,” Huggins said. “I’ll give you an example: We were 2-for-5 when we didn’t make a pass. Those two were lay-ups. We were 2-for-11 when we shot it off the first pass. We were 8-of-15 when we passed it twice. We were 5-of-10 when we passed it three times. We were 2-for-3 when we passed it four times.”

The reality for that game at least: The offense worked better when the Mountaineers worked the ball around and force defenders to chase after the ball.

It’s a matter of taking time to get people in the right spots and then use those players to spread out the defense to hopefully create lanes to the rim.

“Make them defend the whole floor,” Huggins said. “That’s what people do to us.”

It is a philosophy, Huggins said, that WVU coaches have tried to drill into the players since the start of preseason practices. Eilert’s research from the loss to Buffalo showed the players tangible proof.

“The reality is the people who have great defensive numbers control the game with their offense. They don’t control the game with their defense,” Huggins said.

Which brings up the full-court press, or rather the lack of one against the Bulls, who were forced into just 11 turnovers. Last season, only five West Virginia opponents turned it over fewer times.

Huggins said his guards were not in position to defend dribblers who caught the inbounds pass.

“They threw the ball in and guys turned up the floor and our guy over the ball didn’t have a chance to double-team anybody,” Huggins said. “Our guards did a really poor job of making sure [Buffalo] players caught the ball in an area — and it was the way they caught it. You don’t want them to turn up the floor when they catch it.”

Monmouth (0-3) have averaged 14.7 turnovers per game this season.

The Mountaineers have won two of their last three tournaments played in November, with championships coming in the 2014 Puerto Rico Tip-Off, the 2015 Las Vegas Invitational and the 2017 AdvoCare Invitational at Disney World.

WVU would face either Western Kentucky or Valparaiso on Friday and will play a third game Sunday. How the Mountaineers fare may just depend on how patient they become on offense and getting guys in the right place in the full-court pressure.

“It comes down to they’ve got to play and I’ve got to figure out a way to get them to play,” Huggins said.





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