The Times West Virginian

Sports

January 20, 2014

WVU couldn’t overcome Wildcats strong defense

MORGANTOWN — The most impressive aspect of Kansas State’s 78-56 victory over West Virginia University on Saturday was the Wildcats’ SOS defense.

SOS?

That’s right – Stop Outside Shooters.

And how do they do it? Fittingly, they answer the SOS with help.

During the time heading into the game, WVU coach Bob Huggins put it this way:

“They gang guard you. They are doing a great job of shooting-percentage defense and guarding 3s.”

Before the Mountaineer game, K-State was the stingiest defense in the conference in points and the toughest to make 3-point shots against, and WVU did nothing to change that. Averaging 80 points a game coming in, WVU scored just 56.

The Mountaineers did so because they were held to 32.7 percent shooting from the field, 26.7 percent from 3-point range.

It wasn’t that they surprised WVU.

“I played against Kansas State before, so it wasn’t any surprise. I played against Kansas State before. We just did a poor job of executing offense,” point guard Juwan Staten said.

Staten’s shooting was fine, hitting 5 of 10 shots, but he could not get off a 3-point shot all game, and when he tried to force matters or drive the lane, as he so often does, he ran into so much trouble that he committed a season-high 7 turnovers.

Much of it came from the way they approached the picks Kevin Noreen would set for Staten near the top of the key in an effort to shake him loose in the lane.

Noreen would set a pick, once or twice it wasn’t even called a moving pick, if one can imagine that, and they would switch off the pick.

Noreen’s big man would pick up Staten initially, but it wasn’t really a switch, for Staten’s man did not switch to Noreen. He would fight through the pick so that, when Staten normally was trying to make his move to the basket, he actually was double-covered, not only by a bigger, slower man, but by the man originally assigned to guard him.

That, of course, left Noreen open, but he is not an offensive threat, averaging 2.2 points per game, so it was stopping Staten, often forcing him into a turnover, while risking very little.

It wasn’t that WVU didn’t have shots. Terry Henderson, for example, could have made a huge difference in the game if he had been hitting as he had in recent games, but he was shooting as if blindfolded.

Henderson made only 1-of-8 attempts, many of them “great shots” in Huggins’ opinion.

Add to that Remi Dibo and Nathan Adrian, who have to complement with 3-point shooting, managed to take only one each and failed to hit either.

In fact, only a resurgent Eron Harris, who scored 21 points and hit 4 of 8 3s, made any 3-point shots for the Mountaineers.

Huggins and Co. get a few days to regroup and try to correct what has gone wrong before a dangerous Texas Tech team, coached by one-time NCAA champion Tubby Smith, come to the Coliseum on Wednesday.

The Red Raiders lost to WVU at home in a tense, 89-86 overtime battle and since have shown it was no fluke playing so close by upsetting Baylor.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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