There’s no getting around it, foul trouble has cost West Virginia dearly at times this year. With West Virginia’s relentless press have come relentless whistles in Mountaineer games.
West Virginia has been called for the third-most fouls per game in the NCAA this season, 24.3 per contest to be exact, and the result has been the constant need for lineup and strategy shifting by head coach Bob Huggins.
One player at the top of WVU’s press, forward Nathan Adrian, has been whistled for 53 fouls in 290 minutes of action through 19 games. Only Jaysean Paige has committed more fouls with 55, and he has played 107 more minutes than Adrian to this point.
Despite the issues he has endured with foul trouble, Adrian constantly garners praise from Huggins for his defensive efficiency and effort. Adrian said getting called for as many fouls as he does doesn’t exactly sit well with him, but that it’s just part of the game.
“I mean, everybody gets fouls that they don’t agree with called on them. I don’t necessarily feel unlucky, but I’ve just got to work better to move my feet enough and not foul,” he said.
“You can just work harder at it, and stay consistent with it every play. I’ve just also got to keep my hands out; don’t reach or anything to give them a chance to call it.”
In the first conference game of the season, a double overtime win against Kansas State, Adrian and three other Mountaineers found themselves straddling the line between four fouls and disqualification.
As a result, Huggins backed off of the press a little, and switched the Mountaineers into a 1-1-3 zone that threw the Wildcats off and helped secure a critical road win to open league play.
With a rematch coming up against Kansas State at the WVU Coliseum tomorrow night, Adrian said there are plenty of things the Mountaineers learned from their first meeting with the Wildcats, including how tough of an opponent they are.
“They just brought the ball up the court quicker, attacked when they had numbers, and eventually we had to go to the 1-1-3 to be able to stop them,” he said.
Attack is the key word there. In the early going, Kansas State let West Virginia’s press dictate the flow of the game. But as the Wildcats’ ball handlers got their feet wet in dealing with the pressure, they dribbled right into it without fear.
“They’re more aggressive than they were last year. They’re playing hard, and they’re getting at it on offense, and they’re attacking our press more. That’s definitely different,” Adrian said.
West Virginia has won its last three games against Kansas State, but by an average margin of just 4.6 points per game. Adrian said WVU will use the film from their first meeting to see how to best attack K-State tomorrow night, but that there are really no secrets when it comes to rematches in conference play.
“You can always watch to see what they do, and see what they did to attack our press and improve on it. We’ll watch that and improve on it,” he said.
“It’s a little different because you know your personnel better. We’ve already played each other once, and we know what everybody is going to do. So you’ve got to find new ways to attack them and score.”