The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

January 5, 2013

New beginning

WVU opens Big 12 hoops slate against Oklahoma

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University’s puzzling basketball team moves into Big 12 play at 4 p.m. today as it hosts Oklahoma in a game that symbolizes the birth of a new era.

The Mountaineers have staggered through their non-conference play, a team in transition as it tries to blend in a trio of transfers who sat out last season with some veterans and talented freshmen.

They have won 7 and lost 5, one of the losses being an early season 77-70 defeat to the Sooners in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla., a rare non-conference confrontation between conference opponents.

If the Sooners, 10-3, did anything to beat WVU in the first meeting it was to keep coming at them hard.

“They really beat us in transition the last time,” Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins said. “Their last six or seven baskets were either transition or second shots. They do a great job in transition, but they don’t have to do that.”

“It seemed every time we scored, they came right back at us,” recalled center Deniz Kilicli from the first meeting. “We have to get back on defense.”

Normally, West Virginia is the team that dictates the style and pace of the game, that being the recipe Huggins has used to accumulate more than 700 victories. His career record stands at 717-272.

Normally, upon entering conference play, you come in contact with teams you have played over and over.

“Generally I think it means more familiarity, but this year I don’t think that’s true,” Huggins said.

“You know, you play Georgetown year after year you know what you’re getting.”

Now though it’s a journey into the unknown on both sides, which normally is an advantage for WVU.

“I think what happens is when you play us, we’re not going to let you run your sets; we’re going to take you out of things to where you are playing a lot of ball screens,” Huggins said. “That’s pretty much what everyone we played has said for a long time.”

“How we play is different than everybody else,” Kilicli added. “When we were good, my sophomore year, no one scored their average. That’s what we have to get to.”

This is what Huggins has been preaching, but he’s had a lot of trouble getting through to this team.

“I can’t even get them in the right spot out of a timeout, and I always thought that was our great strength before,” he said. “With Da’(Sean Butler) and Devin (Ebanks), we could change on the fly.”

This team has had trouble running its sets, let alone making adjustments as it goes along. Part of it, of course, is that they just haven’t spent enough time with each other the floor so that everything comes without thinking about it.

“I think we are getting better,” Kilicli said, aware the team has won three straight. “We did whatever we can to get better. Huggs made sure we took care of what we need to. It’s on us.”

Part of it has been that they understand what they can and cannot do. This is not a good outside-shooting team, and that has led them over the past few games to be more physical and go at the basket harder and more often.

“We’re trying to get to the line more. We’re trying to spread people as much as we can spread people and get to the basket,” Huggins said.

The result is that the Mountaineers have been to the line 74 times in the past three games, free points, and points are precious at this stage of the year until Huggins can figure out a way to get some scoring going.

He’s even contemplating getting more outside shooting from his big men, in part because some of them, led by Aaric Murray, are good outside shots and because it opens the driving lanes to the basket.

“It’s kind of like what I did in Cincinnati one time. We kept clanging shots, so I told the big guys you get out there beyond the line and let the guards go inside and rebound and see how they like it. What happened was I had this guy Keith Starks start making them, then another guy made a few and it really changed what we did,” Huggins said. “Against the zone I put Starks out there and let him shoot it and made the guards rebound. I may do that here.

“It gets Aaric out where he can make some shots. I told those guards if they leave the outside to kick it back out to him because he makes those shots better than you do.”

Slowly, they seem to be moving forward but they are now out of time.

“I think we scored more points against them than anyone else,” Huggins of the 70 they scored on Oklahoma in the first meeting. “Their three losses, they scored 60 or less, so we have to do a good job of defending them.”

Email Bob Hertzel @bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: NCAA football is thriving in the digital age

    The other day Baylor football coach Art Briles walked into his graduate assistants’ office and had to laugh at what he saw.
    “There’s five guys sitting in there — a couple of GA’s and some office personnel — and they all are within a foot and a half of each other and not a one of them is talking to each other,” Briles said, describing the scene “Every one of them is on the phone.”

    April 24, 2014

  • O’Brien leads WVU baseball past Marshall

    Catcher Cam O’Brien made a bid at becoming only the second West Virginia University player to hit for the cycle as the Mountaineers jumped on Marshall early and routed their in-state rival, 10-3, behind strong pitching from Corey Walter and a pair of relievers.

    April 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- WVU faithful again have a reason to root against Vick

    It would be one final indignation, that’s what it would be if Michael Vick were to beat out Geno Smith and win the starting quarterback job with the New York Jets.

    April 23, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Luck open to WVU fans’ suggestions

    West Virginia’s fans have spoken, perhaps not verbally but nonetheless have had their voices heard, over the past few years as attendance has fallen at the Mountaineers’ football and basketball games.

    April 22, 2014

  • Mountaineers ready for slate of rivalry games

    Looking to put together a late-season run to get into the NCAA championships, West Virginia faces a pair of midweek rivalry games in a crucial five-game week coming off winning two of three games at Oklahoma.

    April 22, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Summer, Alabama will be used to get WVU’s mind right

    The ink had barely dried on the final reports out of West Virginia’s spring practice when thoughts turned forward toward the lazy, hazy days of late summer, days that will bring us into football season with a game that can either change the entire image of WVU football or sour it even further.

    April 21, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Watson tees off a new century at The Greenbrier

    You knew this was going to be one of those unpredictable, memorable days when you drove into the Greenbrier Resort and headed to the Old White Golf Course and found the best parking place in the joint.
    As Bob Uecker would say, right there in the front rooooow.

    April 20, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules

    At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.

    April 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads