Getting Defensive

Finally playing with enough defensive intensity to match its considerable offensive firepower, the No. 6 WVU basketball jumped out to a 12-2 lead in the game's first four minutes and dominated throughout in a 68-39 victory over Duquesne.

The Mountaineers (6-0) thoroughly dominated the opening minutes, forcing Dukes coach Ron Everhart to call a timeout with exactly 16:00 remaining in the first half.

Even that break in the action could not stem the tide working against the Fairmont, W.Va., native and his squad. West Virginia out-rebounded the visitors by an 8-1 margin in that time frame, scoring six quick second-chance points as a result of four offensive rebounds.

All three of those short put-backs were scored by WVU's Kevin Jones, who ended the contest with game-highs in both points (16) and rebounds (nine).

"We gave up 20 offensive rebounds," noted Everhart of his team's struggles on the glass, which led to 21 second-chance points for the home squad. "I don't know if you can win anywhere playing like that."

Things weren't any easier for Duquesne on the offensive end, as the Mountaineers -- likely tired of hearing head coach Bob Huggins talk about how they ranked last in the Big East Conference in field goal percentage defense -- harassed their opposition into 15 first-half turnovers.

WVU scored 22 points off those Dukes miscues, and added 16 more on the second chances it created with 14 offensive rebounds, in the opening 20 minutes.

"All we have talked about to them is that we didn't lose a game when we scored over 70 a year ago," Huggins said. "What we told them is, ‘Let's go back to guarding the way we guarded a year ago.' I thought we guarded pretty good."

All of that combined to create a sort of perfect storm for the Mountaineers, who took advantage of a 13-2 run in the final five minutes to take a 42-20 lead over Everhart's battle-tested squad (which had won at Iowa and taken Pittsburgh to double overtime earlier in the season) at the halftime intermission.

Huggins and company had played tough enough defense and rebounded the ball well enough to have that healthy halftime edge despite being almost even in terms of accuracy (36 percent for Duquesne to 35.9 percent for WVU) in the first half.

The Mountaineers managed 14 more field goal attempts and six more free throw attempts in the opening frame due to their hustle and effort, helping build the considerable cushion.

This game recap presented by The Book Exchange

The lead only expanded after the intermission, ballooning to as many as 34 points (at 61-27) with just over 10:00 remaining.

WVU's stingy defense did not slow down in the second half, holding Duquesne to an even lower 26.3 percent shooting average in the final 20 minutes and forcing another nine turnovers.

All told, the Dukes (6-3) had only six assists to go with their 24 turnovers. Their 39 points were the fewest scored by any West Virginia opponent since the 2006 team defeated The Citadel 63-36.

"We got shut out right off the bat," said Everhart. "We tried to respond, but we couldn't keep them off the offensive glass. They shut us down defensively."

After spending the early part of the season dissatisfied with his team's performance on the defensive side of the ball -- and left with little to complain about in that department in the win over the Dukes -- Huggins turned his vitriol towards his team's offensive performance.

"We just didn't run offense," the third-year WVU coach said. "I'm running out patience."

"This isn't going to continue. I've been more patient than I've probably ever been. I'm tired of being patient. It's time to do right. We're getting ready to get into the heart of our schedule. You can't put guys in the game that just totally stop your offense."

For the Dukes, forward Damian Saunders was the only player in double figures, scoring 12 points to go with a team-high six rebounds. No other starter tallied more than six points for the visitors.

West Virginia point guard Truck Bryant had eight points and a game-high seven assists. Wellington Smith had 11 points, four rebounds, an assist and a block. Da'Sean Butler scored 10 points and added eight boards to go with three assists.

Butler, a senior forward, struggled from the field, hitting only three of his 13 field goal attempts. He was only one many Mountaineers who struggled with their shot against the Dukes, as WVU shot only 36.4 percent from the field in the blowout victory.

"I thought we guarded them well in terms of initial stops, considering we held them to 37 percent from the floor," said Everhart. "I didn't know we were capable of that. We had good effort. We just never finished the possession or rebounded it."

After dealing with a nine-day layoff between regulation games, WVU begins to settle into a regular schedule this week. It will take on Coppin State at the Coliseum at 7 p.m. on Saturday.



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