WVU basketball: Adjusting Huggins' style to new rules key for Mountaineers
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - There are the 3-pointers West Virginia's basketball team will likely shoot quite often during a season that begins at home tonight, and there are three pointers the Mountaineers are wise to remember.
This is a team that's going rely a lot on young players. This is a team that's must learn how to play with the new way officials will call fouls when a defender is guilty of even slight contact with a ball handler. And this is a team that plays for Bob Huggins.
"Playing for Coach Huggins, you're taught to get up on your man and use your chest to play very physical," point guard Juwan Staten said. "The way they call fouls now, you've got to space your man out a little bit and keep your hands off. That's going to put a lot of emphasis on your footwork. Whether we're young or old, it's something we're going to have to adjust to quickly."
That starts at 8 p.m. at the Coliseum with the opener against Mount St. Mary's. The Mountaineers from Emmitsburg, Md., won nine of their final 10 games last season and played for the Northeastern Conference title, but lost the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament to LIU-Brooklyn. Mount St. Mary's returns its top three scorers. Each scored in double figures last season.
Those Mountaineers play a frantic style of offense and defense they label "Mayhem." They play fast and try to score early on offense, but also press and apply a variety of pressure looks on defense, which figures to lead to a lot of whistles. Officials called 63 fouls and lined up 82 free throws in WVU's exhibition game win Monday against Fairmont State. WVU was 37-for-54 at the free-throw line.
"As many free throws as we shoot a day - and we shoot a ton of free throws; they make 100 free throws before they go home - for us to shoot 68 percent is not very good," Huggins said. "We had a lot of guys who I think are pretty good shooters miss a bunch of shots."
Huggins' Mountaineers used three frontcourt players, which is the full complement this season, with freshman Elijah Macon and junior college transfer Jonathan Holton both ineligible to play this season. The three forwards combined to go 2-for-8 at the free throw line and shoot 1-for-7 and score four points in a combined 57 minutes.
WVU scored 10 of its 89 points in the paint and the only basket to come out of interior offense was freshman Devon Williams' hook shot late in the first half.
The Mountaineers made 12 3-pointers and tried 26, but also dared Fairmont State to defend on the perimeter without fouling. That didn't happen and Staten, Eron Harris and Gary Browne shot a combined 34-for-44 at the free-throw line.
"Scoring will go up," Harris said. "We've got to start moving our feet. Guys are going to be quick and they're going to attack us and (officials) are going to call a lot of fouls. We've got to learn to sit down and guard."
WVU played the exhibition without sophomore guard Terry Henderson, a projected starter who sat out with inflamed shin muscles. A second shooter, junior college forward Remi Dibo, only got off the bench in the final few minutes. He had knee surgery three weeks ago to repair a meniscus tear in his knee.
Harris addressed the void on the perimeter and on the scoreboard with 30 points and three 3-pointers. He shot 6-for-12 and added eight rebounds, but also three turnovers to two assists.
"Even though I had a high scoring game, I felt like my shot selection could have been better," Harris said. "I feel like I've got to stay within myself and help the team get better. At certain points, I probably looked bad out there, even though I had an overall good performance."
Huggins said he could have played Dibo more in the exhibition had Dibo been healthy enough to practice more before the game. He said Henderson should be able to play tonight, as well. Their presence really won't change what Huggins had to do against Fairmont State.
Freshman Nathan Adrian started and played 31 minutes, and though the 6-foot-9 Morgantown High graduate might not start or play as much, he'll certainly be on the floor a lot after making six 3-pointers and scoring 21 points Monday.
The 6-9 Williams started and likely will again. He had four points and 13 rebounds. Freshman Brandon Watkins played 12 minutes with foul trouble, but the 6-9 Watkins had four rebounds and blocked two shots. They're part of a nine-player rotation if Henderson and Dibo both play.
"They're not dumb," Huggins said. "The only non-freshman on the front line is Kevin Noreen. They know they have to play and they know they have to be productive. We've spent a great deal of time talking about doing what you're good at doing."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.