Inbounds Breakdowns

West Virginia's struggles with one of the most basic of plays are a surprise considering the intricacy of everything else it does. It's little wonder, then, that it worked the last 48 hours to ensure those base errors are remedied in time for Wednesday's key match-up with Notre Dame.

The No. 11 Mountaineers (15-4, 6-0 Big East) were forced into calling consecutive timeouts late in the win over St. John's because they could not inbound the ball. It has been a problem that has plagued each of head coach John Beilein's four WVU teams, and one that could prove costly in close contests.

"We worked on that yesterday, and we will 10 minutes today, especially the late-game situations," Mike Gansey said. "It's little things. A couple times, I timed my cut too late. Where J.D. (Collins) was, I went with him and there were two guys right there. Watching on the film, even though we didn't want the game to be close, it's going to help us down the road.

"A couple times, too, we got called in games for fouls on screens. We need to set our man up right.

Several players noted that they knew St. John's would play a physical style and hold during inbounds plays. Fouls were not called, and that's something West Virginia has addressed as well, having its scout team slap, reach and hold players in preparation for Notre Dame's physicality.

"A couple times I gout fouled and they didn't call anything," Gansey said. "That's basketball, though."

The problem hasn't yet become plaque-like. But it's worth noting that, perhaps because of base quickness, Gale Catlett-coached squads inbounded the ball easily, often getting points in the paint. West Virginia, to its credit, did score off one inbounds play against St. John's.

"(St. John's is) quicker than us at five positions," Beilein said. "So when you're trying to inbound the ball and your five guys are slower than their five guys, it's going to be tough. We overloaded and got in each other's way a couple times. Guys made wrong reads. But we still didn't have a turnover out of the whole deal. We just used up a lot of timeouts."

That's a coaching philosophy to which Mountaineer fans must get acclimated. Beilein does not value or use timeouts as other coaches do (to slow building momentum or calm his team during runs), preferring instead to use them at times when he sees perceived smaller problems like a bad cut or poor offensive flow. Those timeouts could, however, stop a bad stretch before it starts.

And, to Beilein's value-every-possession ideal, one turnover might be akin to several timouts.

"I think we just have to have the will to get open," said Patrick Beilein, the guard assigned inbounds duty. "The one time I didn't have any timeouts left, I said ‘Guys, I have nothing left. You have to get open.' And they got open. They need to get open, and its whether or not they want to work hard to get that ball inbounds.

"That's the worst position to be in when you're an inbounder, when nobody is open. You have to make a quick decision. I just have to depend upon the guys to do what they are supposed to do as far as executing and breaking hard to get the ball."

The blame wasn't all on the other four players, however, something to which Pat Beilein would admit.

Once, for example, Jo Herber popped open to Beilein's right along the sideline. By the time Beilein realized it, however, Herber was too far down the sideline, and an inbounds pass would have risked a deadly two-man trap in the corner along the sideline and baseline.

"You have to be careful," Herber said. "You don't want to give the guy the ball too deep in the corner. I think it's also a matter of timing. It's knowing when to come open. And a couple times we had guys breaking to the same area. It's hard for the inbounder to throw it in then.

"We went over it, and it's real important considering almost every Big East game comes down to the final possessions. It's important to keep the ball in your hands."

Also, the team noticed on film that Beilein handed the ball to the referee and waited for an acknowledging throwback to begin the inbounds after a made basket. That is unneeded after a hoop, and it allows other teams to set up.

"Especially last game, Pat just kept throwing the ball to the ref," Gansey said. "We let them setup, which really hurt us. Hopefully we don't do that. Plus teams are quicker than we are. Us getting the ball in is tougher. We can't just say, ‘OK, Mike, go get the ball.'"

Gansey was guarded by the Red Storm point guard Daryl Hill, who is quicker than the 6-4 forward. West Virginia can't do much in terms of beating individual players, but through teamwork and using one or two players to set others up for an inbounds catch, passes and plays should become more obvious than what they have.

"It's a little bit of everything," Kevin Pittsnogle said. "It's not seeing the open man sometimes, not running the right cut at the right time. We learned from film that that's what (Beilein) was doing as far as throwing the ball back. We all learn from film everyday, so he learned not to throw it to the ref anymore. That will allow us to get it in quicker and not let the defense set up." West Virginia must also prepare for different looks from Notre Dame. St. John's switched its inbounding defense from guarding the ball to using a five-on-four approach to deny passes instead of focusing on Beilein.

"We didn't execute, and St. John's changed defenses and were quicker than us," John Beilein said.

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