Drive to Success

Many observers are ready to dismiss West Virginia's basketball team as a one-trick pony that's totally dependent on perimeter shooting.

That's an understandable assessment from those that follow the team as fans, and have seen the Mountaineers struggle to score against quality competition when the ball goes in to the low block. It's less understandable from those who cover the team, even if that coverage amounts to watching one game out of five. Either way, however, those assessments aren't accurate. There are ways that West Virginia can make up for the points its doesn't get from traditional entry passes into the post.

One of those methods was on display in WVU's win over Marshall, as Brandon Watkins came off the bench to score 12 critical points for the Mountaineers. All of his second half scores came from offensive rebounds or drives and dishes from the perimeter -- methods that West Virginia hasn't exploited in many of its games.

Scoring off those boards isn't a new thing, obviously. It's often been a staple of Bob Huggins teams that didn't shoot it well. Simply getting a shot up on the rim where powerful forwards and centers could retrieve it and put it in the hoop powered Huggs' squads on many occasions. While it's not likely to be an anchor for WVU's scoring this season, especially as rebounding gets tougher against Big 12 schools, it can play a role.

Watkins showed he can do it, and Remi Dibo also turned a pair of offensive boards into three points. Devin Williams certainly has the rebounding part down, and as he learns how to get his shot off around the rim, his second chance points should increase too. If the Mountaineers can get 10 points per game in this manner, they will be difficult to beat most nights.

The second way WVU can help offset post scoring is on drives to the basket -- and they don't even have to get all the way to the hoop. Obviously, it's great when Juwan Staten, Terry Henderson or Eron Harris can drive and score, or find an open teammate after drawing a defender. But WVU can also add points with its mid-range game, as it did when Gary Browne pulled up after pump-faking and stepping in to nail a 15-footer in the late going on Saturday to extend WVU's lead. As teams continue to extend their defenses to guard the Mountaineers on the perimeter, those sorts of opportunities should be available.

While these options can't totally replace a great back-to-the-basket scorer, they can probably fill enough of the gap to help the Mountaineers be successful. It's not a foregone conclusion that WVU will get these points in every game. It has to be consistent in doing so. However, now that guys like Watkins, Dibo and Williams have shown that they can get a hoop or two off boards and feeds, and perimeter players have displayed the ability to make shots not only at the three-point line but also in the mid-range, West Virginia has multiple players that can contribute to fill the inside void.

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