PoG: WVU - Coppin State

It was another game dominated by defense and rebounding for the No. 6 WVU basketball team. After the Mountaineers' 69-43 win over Coppin State, the BlueGoldNews.com staff made its choices for the noteworthy performances from the home squad's seventh win of the season.

PLAYER OF THE GAME:

Kevin Jones.

If the sophomore keeps this sort of effort up, he might dominate our awards throughout the season. And "effort" is exactly what the forward brings on every possession of every game.

Jones had career-highs in both points (22) and rebounds (11). His hustle and hard work were evident all night, as the Mount Vernon, N.Y., native collected eight of West Virginia's 24 offensive rebounds. He also accounted for many of the team's 24 second-chance points off those caroms.

It's almost getting ridiculously common to see Jones doing the dirty work on the offensive end, cleaning up other players' misses by simply outworking other players for position and finding a way to put the ball in the goal.

While head coach Bob Huggins is right in saying that many players on his team are legitimate shooting threats, he is equally right in saying that sometimes, players will simply have nights where their accuracy is not up to par.

It certainly must be a relief to the third-year WVU coach to know that in those cases, Jones gives him a fighting chance at a second opportunity on almost every offensive possession.

While it's easy to see the sophomore's impact on the glass and in the scoring totals, don't forget his defensive effort. He added two blocked shots and three steals against the Eagles.

"Good things happen to good people, and Kevin's a really good guy," Huggins said. "He does everything right. You can coach him. You tell him what to do and he knows what to do."

NET BURNERS:

  • Joe Mazzulla.

    When Coppin State coach Ron "Fang" Mitchell went to a slow-down offensive attack, there were a couple of answers that Huggins had waiting for that tactic.

    One was to go to a full-court pressure defense (more on that in a moment). The other was to stick his best on-ball defender in the face of whatever unfortunate Eagle point guard happened to have the rock in his hands.



    Joe Mazzulla

    That strategy paid off, as Mazzulla helped harass guards Lenny Young, George Jackson and Vince Goldsberry into four, four and six turnovers, respectively.

    Even while not at 100 percent in terms of health (which it is clear that Mazzulla is not), the junior guard brings a certain attitude and effort to everything he does on the floor.

    He also brings intelligence. In his 10 minutes on the floor, the Johnston, R.I., native barely made an impact on the box score. He didn't attempt a field goal, missed his only free throw try, and had only one rebound and one assist.

    But he didn't turn the ball over, and his defensive effort simply can't be shown by any raw numbers. The numbers may have been small, but Mazzulla's impact on the game was big.

  • Huggins' use of the 1-2-2 pressure defense.

    The other tactic Huggins used was one rarely seen from his teams. He went to a three-quarter court zone pressure defense that Coppin State did not appear to be remotely prepared for.

    "They put the pressure on and our kids didn't react to the pressure as well as I'd like them to have," said Mitchell. "We threw the ball away. When you throw the ball away and miss baskets, you lose."

    It was a brilliant move by Huggins in that it forced the Eagles to play at a tempo they simply were not comfortable playing at. A spree of turnovers resulted from the strategic move, and WVU converted Coppin State's 20 giveaways into 25 points.

  • Crashing the glass.

    Huggins is right in saying that rebounding and playing tough defense is the only way to overcome a poor shooting night like the Mountaineers endured Saturday.

    Those are the areas where Huggins' squads have improved upon the foundation which former coach John Beilein built during his tenure in Morgantown.

    That showed against Coppin State, as WVU had 40 rebounds to the Eagles' 26. The home squad had almost as many offensive boards (24) as its opposition did on both ends. That led to a 24-2 edge in second-chance points.

    While few of West Virginia's seven wins to open the season have been pretty, almost all have featured plenty of hustle. That shows up most clearly in the rebounding statistics.

    If WVU can control the glass the way in Big East Conference play the way they have early in the year, it could be tough for any team to take out Huggins and company -- even on a bad shooting night.


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