When it comes to his preference for defense, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins is a man-to-man kind of man.
But on Sunday, when Georgetown used its quickness to stay in a game in which the Mountaineers were a clear favorite, Huggins brought out a zone that helped West Virginia get a handle on the Hoyas in an 80-71 road win.
“We wanted to change the tempo a little bit,” Huggins said. “They were coming off those ball screens pretty hard at us, and that kind of stopped a couple of those ball screen things. It’s a work in progress, to say the least.”
No. 11 West Virginia will continue to look for defensive progress Wednesday night when it plays host to Robert Morris.
In going 4-1, with the one loss an 87-82 decision to No. 1 Gonzaga on Dec. 2 in Indianapolis, the Mountaineers haven’t been completely terrible on defense. While they are allowing 71.8 points per game, they are permitting opponents to make just 42.6 percent from the field and 28.2 percent from 3-point range.
The biggest difference between this team and many recent West Virginia outfits is that this one might not be able to pressure opponents out of their offense. The Mountaineers are forcing 13 turnovers per game, down from last season’s 15.6, and that includes the 15 they produced from Georgetown.
“Every time we double someone, the whistle starts blowing,” Huggins said. “We’re working through things.”
Of course, this is also a better offensive team than most of Huggins’ previous 13 West Virginia squads. The Mountaineers are pumping in nearly 78 points per game, even though they aren’t shooting a high percentage from the field. They are hitting 74.2 percent at the foul line, and they average 25.6 free-throw attempts per game.
Miles McBride’s 17 points, seven assists and four steals paced West Virginia at Georgetown, and three other teammates scored in double figures. McBride averages 15.2 points, just behind Derek Culver (15.4) for the team lead.
Robert Morris (1-0) finally opened its season on Saturday with a 75-57 home victory over NAIA foe Point Park of Pittsburgh. The Colonials got 18 points from AJ Bramah, who has reached double figures in 29 of his last 30 games.
Robert Morris was one of the last teams in Division I to play a game. The Colonials postponed an earlier date with Point Park and canceled games with Central Michigan and Florida Gulf Coast after pausing its program due to positive tests for COVID-19 among players, coaches and staff.
Eleventh-year coach Andrew Toole was “appreciative” to get a game played.
“I think there were some things we did tonight that I definitely liked, and there are certainly some things that we can get better at,” Toole said after the win over the Pioneers.
The Colonials are tabbed for a fourth-place finish in the Horizon League. They left the Northeast Conference on top last March with a victory in the conference tournament title game, just two days before the COVID-19 pandemic ended the season and canceled their trip to the NCAA Tournament.
–Field Level Media