WVU basketball: Huggins evaluating lineup
MORGANTOWN - Deniz Kilicli was on the basketball court at the Coliseum more than an hour before practice Tuesday, pushing up jump shots from all different angles around the basket and then jostling with managers under the rim on inside shots.
Limited to nine minutes in Saturday's loss to Michigan and basically benched for the entire second half, Kilicli has 11 points and four baskets the past three games.
"There are going to be times like that," said the senior forward who is shooting 39.4 percent. "It's just a time period right now where I don't shoot the ball well. The only reason I go in the game is to (score) the ball. It'll get better. In three years here, I've never shot the ball worse than this three- or four-game period. It'll get better, so I work on it."
A while later, center Aaric Murray - who Coach Bob Huggins left on campus when the team traveled to Brooklyn, N.Y., to play the Wolverines - was on the floor stretching and then shooting. Huggins said Murray, who was left behind for performance reasons, had been better the following two days and will play in tonight's 9 p.m. ESPNU home game against Oakland.
Huggins targeted both Murray and Kilicli, who was held scoreless, after Saturday's game. He said the team didn't miss Murray and he'd had players who were "way, way, way" better.
He said Kilicli has proven incapable of scoring around the rim and thus wasn't much help, which led Huggins to suggest his Mountaineers (4-5) were better with a small lineup that didn't feature either the 6-foot-10 Murray or the 6-foot-9 Kilicli.
"We finish around the rim better with a smaller lineup," he said. "It's a different way, but at least we can finish around the rim. We seemingly put more pressure on the rim and we get better shots, as well."
Opponents have outscored the Mountaineers by 18 points in the 204 minutes Kilicli has played this season.
In the 156 minutes with Kilicli on the bench, WVU has outscored teams by 34 points. Huggins removed Kilicli against Michigan and VMI this season and played a smaller lineup. The Mountaineers outscored VMI 61-29 and Michigan 57-56 with Kilicli on the bench.
Keaton Miles, a 6-7 sophomore forward, started in Murray's place against Michigan. WVU has outscored teams by 25 points when he's played and has been outscored by 10 points when he's on the bench. Huggins has also leaned considerably more on freshmen Terry Henderson and Eron Harris. He said both have improved more within the season than anyone else.
Yet Huggins said Tuesday "we haven't given up on anybody" and that he hasn't figured out who will start against the 4-7 Golden Grizzlies, who just beat 7-3 Valparaiso.
"It's not always your five best guys," he said. "It's the five guys who play the best together. Sometimes that varies as to how people play you. Casey Mitchell, when he was a junior, played a whole lot more against zone than he did against man.
"It depends on matchups, it depends on how people try to play, it depends on what we think we can do that's advantageous."
WVU's trouble is in seeing through its shortcomings to find those advantages. In just the past two games, Duquesne sunk its defense to guard Kilicli and dared the Mountaineers to get offense from the perimeter, while Kilicli couldn't score when he got the ball in a crowd. Michigan played with less bias, but WVU's offense was more effective without Kilicli.
Point guard Juwan Staten had five assists and no turnovers and Henderson and Harris combined for five 3-pointers, which got the Mountaineers thinking.
"Right now the dribble drive and kick-out is our best weapon," Harris said. "We've got guys who can shoot it and we've got a guard who can drive it. I don't know if our post game is there yet, but we've got a lot of time to work on it.
"At this point, I really can't even say what's our best weapon (because) we've got so much to work on, but we can always have two guys on the floor who can shoot and that can be a good weapon for us with the point guard we have."
Huggins, who is quick to note his team has played home just twice in 10 games, sees a benefit and figured things will settle. WVU plays its next four games at home and six games before classes resume with the start of the spring semester.
"I think eventually the healthy thing is going to be that it is competitive and probably more competitive than it's ever been before," he said. "We had guys before that were a good bit better and we don't now. We have a whole bunch of guys that it depends on the day which ones play better."
Oakland averages 71 points per game with three players getting the bulk of the points. Travis Bader, a 6-5 guard, averages 19.8 points and shoots 39 percent from 3-point range. Corey Petros is a 6-10 center averaging 14.4 points and 6.9 rebounds per game and shooting 59 percent from the floor. Duke Monday, a 6-4 guard who led the Big East in steals in 2011 at Providence, averages 13.1 points and 4.3 assists per game.
The Golden Grizzlies also have former WVU forward Tommie McCune on the roster, but he's sitting out this season as a transfer.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.