WVU basketball: Defensive switch was helpful vs. Radford
MORGANTOWN - About midway through the second half of its game against Radford on Saturday, West Virginia trailed by one to a team that it had always beaten by at least 30 points in each of their four meetings.
That's when Mountaineers Coach Bob Huggins decided to make a switch defensively that would change the outcome of WVU's 72-62 victory.
When WVU (6-5) switched from man-to-man to a 1-3-1 zone, it caused havoc for Radford (5-7), which scored just 13 points in the final 9 minutes of the game and made just four shots from the field.
"Today it was (the best defense). But that's our problem," Huggins said. "I don't know what's good for us because one day something's pretty good and then the next day it's not any good and you try to survive some other way."
Huggins pointed to his team's one-point victory against Virginia Tech on Dec. 8 as an example of a time when using the 1-3-1 didn't work. The Mountaineers switched their defense, but the Hokies responded with baskets on three straight possessions to get back into the game.
But that wasn't the case against Radford.
Using a longer lineup that consisted of senior forward Dominique Rutledge, junior center Aaric Murray and sophomore forward Keaton Miles, WVU disrupted a lot of what the Highlanders wanted to do offensively. In the first few minutes after switching to the 1-3-1 the Mountaineers forced four turnovers to turn that one-point deficit into a 13-2 run and a 10-point lead.
"It helped us create a lot of offense," sophomore point guard Juwan Staten said. "It all started with that 1-3-1.
"At times we had a lot of length out there on that court. It gets to hide me and Gary a little bit in spots that we don't need much length. But I figure our length bothers them, and made them throw passes over the top and made them take a lot of time off the clock so they can't get the kind of shot that they want."
The move not only gave the Mountaineers the boost they needed to take the lead against the Highlanders, they played with more enthusiasm.
After earlier games in the season when WVU would come out strong in the first half and then let its foot off the gas the final 20 minutes of play, Saturday was a different situation for the Mountaineers.
WVU outscored Radford 24-13 in the last 10 minutes.
"We need to have more enthusiasm for guarding the ball and rebounding the ball," sophomore guard Gary Browne said. "Sometimes you're going to miss shots. But you can always defend and rebound the ball."
And even though the Mountaineers played well in the 1-3-1 Saturday, Browne and the team knows that in order to continue to have success down the road, they're going to have to play better in all of their defenses.
"We play teams like Radford and they turn it over, so we can get easy baskets (in the 1-3-1)," Browne said. "When we play teams that are better, we have to make sure we play man-to-man and we can play 1-3-1, but we can't play that the whole game."
For Huggins, the success Saturday came down to finding the right personnel and the people who wanted to play the most.
After the game he referenced something that former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian said.
"There's only one pie, and that pie is playing time," Huggins said.
"When so and so plays way better than this other guy, he's going to get more pie. They can all get pie but some guy might get a piece that's 30 times bigger than another guy because he earned it.
"My problem is I don't know who wants any pie. You'd think everybody would want a piece of pie."