The KinderGarden

While West Virginia's read and attack offense has a lot of advantages, it may not be well-suited to take advantage of a player with a hot hand.

During WVU's 59-55 loss to Marshall on Tuesday, senior center D'or Fischer was dominant. Other than Mark Patton, who had limited success defensively against the 6-11 Fischer, no other Herd player appeared capable of slowing the big fella down. Fischer hit short jumpers, wheeled in the post for layups, dunked with authority and snared several offensive rebounds on the way to his 20-points, nine-board night. Unfortunately, West Virginia didn't do enough to take advantage of that mismatch, and as a result the Mountaineers went down to defeat in a game that could, in the end, cost them an NCAA tournament bid.

Fischer, who often moved around Herd post players David Anderson and LaVar Carter as if they weren't even there, attempted only 14 shots on the evening. And while that's a respectable number in the balanced Mountaineer offensive system, he needs to get more on nights when the outside shots aren't falling for his teammates.

So, why didn't WVU get the ball into Fischer's hands more often? The suspicion is that the Mountaineers, accustomed as they are to running, screening and looking for the open perimeter shot, just aren't accustomed to feeding the ball to a hot hand. Trying to do so, in fact, might cause the entire offense to break down.

"I think they tried to extend their defense and take the outside shot away," guard Patrick Beilein said afterward. "It's harder [to get the ball inside] just due to the fact that it's not our style of offense. It's frustrating. "

Beilein's father, head coach John, had a bit of a different perspective.

"I think we are making some strides at scoring inside and diversifying a little bit. I don't think we tried to ride it inside tonight, but it's tough [top get it inside] no matter what we are doing. And if we aren't shooting it well, we are going to have problems."

The fact remains, however, that WVU, saddled with a three-point shooting percentage equal to the average daytime temperature of Barrow, Alaska, still had a chance to win the game. That win, however, was only going to come on this night by getting the ball to Fischer in the paint and on the blocks, where he was dominating play. And the Mountaineers, whether by design or circumstance, failed to grasp that advantage.

To Fischer's credit, he didn't complain about not getting the ball more.

"We had shots from the outside, but we just weren't hitting," Fischer said. "We didn't get any breaks, but that happens.

"I did feel like I could do what I wanted, but it's a team thing," Fischer explained. "It's not just about throwing it inside. They threw it in and I scored, and that opened up the outside shots, but we just didn't hit."

Kudos to the big man for not expressing frustration in what was a tough situation.

The point here is not to propose that Fischer is a panacea for West Virginia's basketball shortcomings. As Patrick Beilein notes, Big East teams are more likely to double team Fischer, thus negating his advantage inside. And when that happens, West Virginia's perimeter shooters will have to be up to the challenge, or the Mountaineers' record could head south in a hurry. It's simply to observe that WVU has to do a better job of taking advantage of what the opponent gives. On this night, it was the inside game. And although Fischer is too much of a team guy to say it, it was obvious to most in attendance that he offered the Mountaineers the best chance to win.

Many observers, of course, are leaping off the WVU bandwagon. Criticisms of the system, the players and the coaches always tend to rain down after a loss like this. For the thinking fans out there, take heart. John Beilein did not forget how to coach. WVU's shooters won't stay in their funks forever. But when plan A goes bad, as it did against Villanova and the Herd, the Mountaineers must have a Plan B that they are comfortable in falling back on.


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