In Wednesday's win against Oklahoma, West Virginia forced 23 turnovers and held the Sooners to 50 points on 33 percent shooting from the field. The Mountaineers' suffocating defense drew praise from head coach Bob Huggins and he told IMG's Tony Caridi that he felt it was the best defensive performance West Virginia had put forth on the year. Now, as the Mountaineers prepare to take on Kansas State, Huggins hopes to see the same intensity and continued improvement on the defensive side of the ball.
"We just kept (Oklahoma) in front of us," explained Huggins. "When you look at the Kansas State game that we lost there, we didn't guard. In the Oklaoma State game we were horrible. We just didn't keep anybody in front of us. When you're consistently turning people loose at the rim they're going to score. They're going to score and you're going to get into foul trouble. Nothing good happens. I don't know if it was just for the Oklahoma game (playing good defense) was something that was long overdue."
Huggins specifically pointed to the home losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State as games when the Mountaineers played some of their poorest defense of the season, and it seemed that the veteran head coach was completely baffled with the defensive effort of his team in both match-ups.
"I wish I knew (the reason for the poor defensive performances)," said Huggins. "I keep asking (the players) and they can't answer. Jevon Carter was turning people loose consistently and he's as good as an on-ball defender as I have had in a long, long time. It was an effort thing and the majority of it happened here at home. Sometimes you wonder do they just think we're going to win because we're at home? I don't know what the answer is and I can't get them to give me an answer."
The prevailing hope is that after playing exceptional defense against Oklahoma the woes are fixed or at least starting to improve. West Virginia has shown that it is capable of playing well on the defensive end of the court, now it is simply a matter of consistency going forward. If the Mountaineers are to go on a deep run in March, now is the point where they must start getting serious and addressing repetitive problems. No one understands that better than Huggins.
"We're at a point where we need to make a serious run," said Huggins. "Whatever it takes to win."