Mountaineer Defense Must Improve

It's not a secret that West Virginia has not been good offensively as of late. The Mountaineers struggled to score the ball once again in Saturday's loss to Kansas State.

But seeing this Mountaineer team play as poorly as it has defensively throughout this season has been probably the most disappointing thing - especially during WVU's recent losing streak.

For years, Bob Huggins' teams have always been known as a team that could rely on its defense to be able to help win games. There have been times when his teams weren't scoring, but they would be able to give opponents fits with their defense and would be able to, at least, have a chance to win when shots weren't falling.

That hasn't been the case for the Mountaineers this season. When it has shot less than 45 percent from the field, with the exception of wins against TCU and Loyola (Md.), it has lost. If West Virginia wants to win games in Big 12 play, it's going to have to be able to do so when it's not having its best days on the offensive end of the floor. There are times when it's going to come to do crunch time in a close game, and the Mountaineers are going to have to be able to come up with a big stop in order to have a chance to win.

Up to this point in the season West Virginia has not been able to do that.

When it needed stops against Oklahoma State down the stretch recently, it wasn't able to hold off the Cowboys and lost the game.

The Mountaineers allowed both Kansas State and Texas to get off to great starts offensively this week and couldn't score enough consistently to get back in the game once they got out in the lead the way they did.

That, especially, was a problem against Kansas State. The Wildcats made shots from the perimeter when they needed to, but had a ton of easy looks close to the basket – including a handful of easy, highlight reel dunks – that allowed them to finish the game making 55 percent of their shots.

In a season in which West Virginia has had trouble stopping opponents to score, Saturday's performance was the best performance from the field for any WVU foe and the third team a team has shot better than 50 percent against the Mountaineers.

After Kansas State's showing Saturday and Texas made 53 percent of its shots from the field earlier in the week, West Virginia is now last in the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense against conference opponents. Teams are shooting better than 49 percent in WVU's five Big 12 Conference games so far this season.

Whether it's making shots from the perimeter or taking advantage of West Virginia's lack of a presence inside in the low post, teams are figuring out ways to execute at an extremely high rate against the Mountaineers. And it's going to continue to get tougher as WVU gets into conference play against teams like Kansas, Iowa State, Baylor and Oklahoma in the next few weeks.

Sure, if West Virginia wants to win games in conference play it's going to need to prove that it can score on those teams – especially from beyond the arc where it has been so good throughout the early part of the season. But defense is what Huggins has always used as his foundation during his time at WVU and all of his other stops during his coaching career.

WVU has allowed at least 70 points nine times so far this season, and only two of those have resulted in victories.

If it can't get better defensively quickly, this team can continue to slip more and more as conference play picks up.

There are a lot of Big 12 teams who can score the ball better than Kansas State.


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