Through four games, West Virginia is once again earning its “Press Virginia” moniker. Head coach Bob Huggins' team was once again dominant on defense against Bethune-Cookman, causing 30 Wildcat turnovers.
West Virginia leads the NCAA in turnovers caused, averaging 24.5 per game, and is using its stingy defense to roll through the early non-conference portion of its schedule.
The competition hasn’t exactly been stiff during the Mountaineers’ first four games, however, and coach Huggins said his team is going to have to step up its game soon, especially when it comes to converting those turnovers into baskets on the other end of the floor.
“We have to get to the point where we finish better. We didn’t finish very well in the first half. We finished much better in the second half. There were too many balls knocked away from us. We left too many of them short. We have to continue to work and get better at that. We have to take advantage of that. We have to get more,” Huggins said.
“The hard thing about playing the way that we have been playing is that you start to rely on it so much early in the season. We don’t play people that we are not going to be able to turn them over as frequently. We are going to have to guard them at the half court, and right now, we are not very good at guarding at half court.”
Even when West Virginia is struggling to transition defense to offense, which it’s really hard to say that after it converted those 30 turnovers into 39 points last night, keeping the pressure up on defenses can cause extended droughts and allow the Mountaineers to make runs.
That’s exactly what they did against Bethune-Cookman, especially in the latter stages of the game. The Mountaineers closed the Wildcats out with a 15-0 run in the final 3:41 of last night’s game.
Bethune-Cookman made just two of its final 22 shots from the field against the Mountaineers. For the game, the Wildcats made just 13 field goals, shooting 25 percent from the floor.
Since he implemented this style of defense, Huggins has continuously harper on the cumulative effect of the pressure. That is to say, as the game wears on, the opposing team tires out from having to work for every inbound pass, every assist, and every made basket.
We saw that manifest itself plenty of times last season, especially against Maryland in the NCAA Round of 32 game, and we saw it again last night.
Huggins may prefer to chide his team for what it’s not doing right during his postgame news conferences, and that’s certainly his prerogative, but the fact is that there just aren’t many teams around the country that know how to handle this press.
Opposing coaches also speak to the media when they come to the Coliseum, and a theme has popped up over the course of the last year among their talks with the West Virginia media: There is really no way to simulate this kind of pressure in game prep.
That is a credit to Huggins, and how hard he has worked to implement this style of play. The competition will certainly take a step up in class in the near future, but it’s hard to see “Press Virginia” being much less effective when that does happen.