Tough Stretch Ahead

Although West Virginia will be playing in front of a friendly crowd Tuesday in Charleston, the Mountaineers will be facing an even better foe than the Northeastern squad that defeated them Saturday night at the Coliseum.

"We have a tough one coming up tomorrow with St.Louis," head coach John Beilein said on Monday. "But, it's probably what we need after the disappointing Northeastern loss. We have a lot of areas to work on, and as I said Saturday, we are very average in just about everything."

Job one on Beilein's "To Do" list is improvement on the defensive end. West Virginia is struggling to incorporate D'or Fischer, Tyler Relph and Frank Young into the rotation, while also trying to play more man to man defense.

The results, to this point, haven't been to Beilein's liking.

"The defense is not what it needs to be," Beilein noted. "We work so hard on helping each other on defense, but it seems like that's all we're doing in games. We are in a help situation the whole game. We have to guard our individual guys better. Help defense needs to be a thing that doesn't happen often, but it's happening all the time to us. We need to be better at guarding our man one on one."

A quick read between the lines, as well as observations from the first two games, reveals that much of the dissatisfaction is with the front line. Beilein noted that the guards are playing well, but that "when you add in the freshmen and D'or, it's normal first year things. I didn't love the veteran defense we had against Northeastern."

Of course, after just two games, no one is pushing the panic button just yet. The Mountaineers are young, and still learning. However, a pair of tough games awaits West Virginia in Washington, D.C. this weekend as well, so there is some concern about the effect a rough early start could have on the squad.


Beilein's main memories of last year's St. Louis game were all bad.

"Tyrone Sally was sick after coming off a stretch of games where he played well, and it was just an ugly game. We couldn't get anything going. It was one of those road games where we played like a very young team."

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There are no anticpiated changes in the starting lineup despite St. Louis' size, which is much greater than that of the first two teams WVU has faced.

"They are big and physical," Beilein observed. "Even though Northeastern was not phyiscally imposing, they knocked us around pretty good. We have to harden up a good bit. There were far too many times we were bumped off the ball against Northeastern. St. Louis is stronger, so we have to work on that."

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Beilein also shared some of his thoughts on developing a rotation, which is still in its infancy this year.

"We are still playing with the idea of guys playing two different positions, in order to shorten our bench and alleviate our mistakes. We are having problems with some guys learning two postions right now, and we are not eliminating mistakes. We are still looking at Brad Byerson and Jerrah Young as well as the other freshman, and we probably won't make a final determination until the Big East season on any redshirts.

"Most good teams don't go 9-10 deep," Beilein said of his ideal rotation. "They play eight players, and that's what we want to do."

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One of the players having trouble adapting is sophomore forward/center Kevin Pittsnogle, but Beilein believes that the big Martinsburg native will continue to improve.

"Pittsnogle is trying to sort out his struggles. It's tough to learn two positions, and tough for him, at his size, to play a guy at 6-5. We just need to work with Kevin to not let mistakes bother him."

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