West Virginia did not do a lot right in the first half against the Norse. For the first time this season an opposing team grabbed more offensive rebounds in the initial half than West Virginia. Jonathon Holton, a key rebounder, was held to zero points and two rebounds in the first half. Holton was neutralized because of the matchup between him and NKU’s Chad Jackson. Jackson, a very versatile power forward, was a major ball handler and shooter for the Norse; his ability to step out and hit the 3-point shot didn’t allow Holton to sink into the paint and grab balls off the board like usual, and he also used his size and strength to battle the Mountaineer standout.
Once the second half began and Jackson got into some foul trouble, Holton grabbed more rebounds, and his teammates followed. Holton and Devin Williams scored the first six points in the second half. The two combined for 19 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks, all in the second half.
Many of the second half points came off turnovers, which were due to the success of the press. Head coach Bob Huggins said it was obvious the press was more effective in the second half.
“We tweaked some things at half time,” said Huggins. “We noticed some things and fixed some minor things in our press.” Those “minor things” turned into some major points for the Mountaineers, and was the main reason Huggins’ team pulled away.
The Norse also kept the paint loaded with defenders to stop Juwan Staten from driving. Once shots started falling in the second half NKU had no choice but to step out, leaving more space for WVU’s guards to drive the ball to the hoop, and rack up fouls - West Virginia was in the double bonus with more than eight minutes left in the second half.
Staten said post game that after a heartbreaking loss to LSU the team did not want to fall into a lull and potentially miss a win on the road.
“Any win coming off a loss is great for us, it gets our confidence back,” said Staten. “We bounced back and are ready to keep the ball rolling.” The team certainly bounced back in the second half, which was much needed for beating NKU, and will be needed down the road against in an extremely competitive Big 12 conference.
Nathan Adrian said that the team needed to get back to playing defense like they did early in the year, and he felt like they did so in the second half. A combination of the tweaks Huggins made in the press, and more passion to defend in the half court set equated to zero three-pointers and nine turnovers for the Norse in the second half.
The Mountaineers did not impress anyone with their win, but they certainly showed yet again that they can adjust to any situation.