Defense, Commitment Continues to Hurt WVU

There has been one thing Bob Huggins has constantly tried to get the players on this year's West Virginia basketball team to figure out.

Over the years, Huggins' teams have been full of players who have been able to reach their potential – and overachieve in a lot of cases – because they were committed to spending the necessary time to get to where they needed to be.

Saturday's 88-75 loss to Baylor was yet another example for the veteran head coach to show that this young Mountaineer squad hasn't quite been able to get that message yet.

West Virginia looked unprepared to execute the game plan and weren't able to make many stops defensively, especially when it needed to or whenever Baylor tried to get into the paint.

The Bears scored 88 points on their 64 possessions, giving them an offensive efficiency more than 15 points higher than the current best mark in the country. And sophomore big man Isaiah Austin did most of that damage in the paint. Austin made eight of his 14 shot attempts, scoring 19 points and two rebounds while blocking seven shots on the defensive end.

As a team, the Mountaineers were outscored in the paint 38-12. For the second game in a row, WVU was outmanned by a team that came out ready to play.

Like Huggins said after the game, it's a matter of committing to what they need to do in order to be the best they can be. Now, while he has talked at times of players needing to get extra shots up, Huggins pointed out that it's not all about getting extra physical reps in leading up to games that will lead to more success and reaching that level of commitment the Mountaineers need to see to turn things around.

Sometimes those mental reps of doing the proper preparation is even more important, and in these last two losses, you can tell that has been something West Virginia has been lacking of late. Huggins' players in the past have studied film obsessively – making sure they know their matchup inside and out before they step on the floor against them. He talked about former Cincinnati forward and NBA starter Kenyon Martin, who knows every set that every team in the league runs and is able to tell his teammates where they need to be at any given moment.

While you might not be able to know opponents that well all the time, it shouldn't be too much of a stretch to be able to look at the guy you're supposed to guard and know what they do best and come up with a plan of action to stop them.

Huggins is only able to do so much, eventually the players have to be able to take the things he's telling them and put it into action. That's the thing keeping this group from becoming the team it can be.

There haven't been many games this season when you can honestly look at an outcome and say, "WVU just didn't have a chance to win this one." So often, you look at this team after a loss like the one it took on Saturday and think about what could have happened if they just made a couple stops here or were in the spot they needed to be there or made a shot in a crucial situation.

The good teams make those things happen. But at the same time, the good teams are also the ones that the issues Huggins brought up after the game aren't an issue for.

Right now, that's what is separating this team from getting to that point.


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