West Virginia Plays Host to Eastern Kentucky on Monday, Looks to Win 10th Before Break

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - With just one non-major foe left on its schedule, West Virginia is creeping closer to Big 12 play. What challenges does that pose for the Mountaineers?

Besides the obvious of the increased intensity and skill level associated with league play, WVU will also be faced with opponents who have frequently scouted it and understand its personnel. Here, head coach Bob Huggins delves into that aspect, and discusses the idea that the collegiate season is indeed broken down into three parts, and the first part quickly coming to close with Monday's 7 p.m. game against Eastern Kentucky, then the Dec. 30 tip at Virginia Tech. And, as Huggins notes, though the Mountaineers have largely passed the nonconference tests, there are still primary issues to be worked on before  pair of road games to start Big 12 play in Kansas State and TCU.

First, as perhaps most obvious, is that West Virginia is turning the ball over far too much. WVU forced Marshall into 19 turnovers in the Capital Classic win, yet turned the ball over 18 times itself against far less pressure. The press is partially to blame, as the mindset of playing fast sometimes causes poor decisions on the other end. But many of the turnovers are simply the result of not being disciplined and patient enough on offense, and instead trying to force a quick bucket in transition. The Mountaineers have held foes to 0.8 points per possession, the second-lowest rate in the nation behind Purdue (0.78). Add in that West Virginia leads the NCAA in steals, forced turnovers, offensive rebounds and three-point percentage defense, and simply protecting the ball better while continuing to shoot effectively from three-point range will make this team very dangerous. 

Huggins, above, also details the play of Esa Ahmad and his improvements - and what's left to improve upon - over the initial 10 regular season games, and talks about the team's schedule following the contest with Eastern Kentucky, and his desires for individual workouts while away. WVU will release the players after the game on Monday, then reassemble the team on Dec. 26, practicing that day, as well as the 27th, 28th and 29th in preparation for Virginia Tech. The four-day layoff is among the longest Huggins said he could recall, and, as the coach speaks to here, warrants the players working on their own, especially to retain the conditioning required to play the pressing style.

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