The Times West Virginian

Breaking News

WVU Sports

November 23, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: Defense on top of mind of Mountaineers

MORGANTOWN — You could not ignore the 101 points that were twinkling on the scoreboards at either end of the Coliseum court as West Virginia University’s victory over Georgia Southern came to a merciful end on Thursday night.

It was the first time a West Virginia team had scored 100 points since the fifth game Bob Huggins had coached at his alma mata, but that didn’t seem to mean a whole to him or his players.

His mind was, as it is when he rises in the morning and goes to bed at night, was on defense.

See, he’s old school that way, firmly believing that you play offense for show and defense for the dough.

It is a lesson he is getting through to his players, too, for in the first half their defense was stifling against the Eagles, a team which came in with two 100-plus games to its credit in its first three games of the year.

At halftime Georgia Southern possessed just 26 points, was shooting just 27 percent from the field, 21.2 percent from 3-point range.

“The defense improved the first half (over previous games),” Huggins admitted.

It had been a classic defensive performance, one that turned to muck in the second half as Southern shot 55.6 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from 3.

Instead of rave reviews from their coach for a 101-68 victory, they got some rants along with the raves from a man who rants with the best of them.

It seems he made them understand and we will allow guard Eron Harris be the spokesperson in that regard.

“We’re giving up too many points,” he said. “We’re giving up more points per game than anyone in the Big 12. That’s why Huggs was mad after the game. We were fighting to keep them under 50 and we could have done it, but we came out and played lazy in the second half.”

“The defense improved the first half (over previous games),” Huggins admitted.

It was enough to make it an enjoyable halftime chat.

But the human side of a team that had put forth a superhuman first-half effort came out in that second half, the game already safely secured.

“We didn’t guard as hard the second half, obviously,” Huggins said. “The first half we did a pretty good job. We closed in lanes better. We made it harder for them to find people. We still did things wrong. They had the same guy open in the corner four times in a row. That should never happen. That may happen a second time but not a third time.”

Part of the reason is just being human.

Offense is fun; defense is work.

True, you do get credit for some defense in the box score – shots blocked and steals. But for the most part it is work credited only by teammates and coaches, often not even until the next day when you see it on film

Perhaps the best way to understand how little credit playing defense gets in sports – be it basketball or football or boxing – name a defensive player who ever won the Heisman Trophy

’Nuff said on that subject.

“I don’t honestly think we played near the defense we need to play,” Harris said. “I’m just being really critical of our game, even though we scored 100 points. I just want to be really critical because right now is the preparation stage.”

What he is saying is that these games are almost like NFL preseason games, except they go on your record and influence the committee come tournament time, so winning is important. Still, the purpose is to learn prior to Big 12 play.

Because of that, with a young team and a lot of new players, Huggins put together an easier schedule than a year ago. For example, they opened last year with powerful Gonzaga and were completely blown away, 84-50.

There was a lesson there.

“I’ve seen Gonzaga play on defense. They play the full 40 minutes, no matter who comes in the game … the backups, the walk-ons, they play like they are a starter. I want to model after that,” Harris said. “Against these guys we didn’t play defense in the second half. We all played offense, but we didn’t play defense. And we’re all guilty of it.”

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

Text Only
WVU Sports
  • 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

  • Means, WVU baseball shut out Oklahoma

    Junior left-hander John Means of the WVU baseball team threw eight shutout innings and the Mountaineers had a five-run first inning en route to a 7-0 victory over Oklahoma on Thursday evening at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The Mountaineers (18-15, 3-6 Big 12) broke a six-game Big 12 losing streak after being swept by TCU and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weekends. WVU had 16 hits and did not make an error for the second-straight game.

    April 18, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Dr. Graber disagrees with Gee’s stance on Turnbull firing

    Dr. Stephen Graber, an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is among the latest WVU teachers to deplore Oliver Luck’s firing of veteran wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.
    He raised some significant questions about that issue last Monday in a meeting of the WVU Faculty Senate.

    April 18, 2014

  • Huggins signs junior college guard

    Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
    Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.

    April 17, 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

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Comparing pay of coaches and professors

    Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
    • A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.

    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

  • WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete

    The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
    Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos