They Can Score, But Can They Defend?

For the last few years, Bob Huggins has come into every season talking about the way his team would be able to play in an ideal situation.

A lot of times, those scenarios had a few key things in common. Huggins wanted his West Virginia teams to get up and down the floor, play fast and put up a lot of points.

And for the last few years that hasn't been the case.

The Mountaineers haven't been able to score the way that their veteran head coach would like to see and that was part of the reason they struggled as much as they did a season ago.

Now, even though three games isn't really a great sample size, it looks as if WVU is beginning to get closer and closer to becoming that team that Huggins has been hoping to have in Morgantown for the last few seasons.

A year ago, West Virginia scored more than 75 points just four times - a mark it has eclipsed in each of the first three games of the season. Of course it's been a little easier to score with the new rules that have sent players to the free throw line quite a bit more early in the season, and that has to have some type of effect on the way teams will score this season. But this team looks a lot different than the last few years.

Much of that improvement can be attributed to the way the Mountaineer backcourt has been able emerge after spending a lot of time focusing on getting better in the offseason. Juwan Staten and Eron Harris have been leading the charge and are giving West Virginia two viable scoring threats that, if the game is on the line, Huggins can depend on to make a big shot.

They're aggressive, they get to the rim, they make open shots when they have them and they aren't afraid to share the wealth with their teammates.

And that's opened up opportunities for other players to step up and make contributions. It's happened with players like Devin Williams who are there in the post to put back a missed shot and we've seen it a lot with Nathan Adrian and Remi Dibo - two players who have emerged as legitimate threats to score from beyond the arc.

With Terry Henderson returning from his injury and Gary Browne on the mend with a thigh injury, if this team can get healthy there's no reason to think that they won't be able to score at a high rate of efficiency the rest of the season.

But then the question becomes whether or not that will be enough to win games on a consistent basis in the Big 12 Conference.

It's not often that a team coached by Bob Huggins - especially after seeing the last few years at WVU - will be a better team offensively than defensively, but that's what it's been so far.

In their three games, the Mountaineers have allowed 80 points twice, and it doesn't look like there has been many players who will have the ability to emerge as a stopper in critical moments of big games. At least not yet.

It will take time for this group to learn how to play defense with the new rules, that's always going to be an issue. But if this team is getting into track meets every game and is relying on scoring a lot of points to win in the Big 12, it won't happen against the league's better teams.


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