Marshall attacked West Virginia's guards off the dribble early in the game, and WVU had problems keeping the Herd out of the lane. Three times in the early going, MU guards beat WVU defenders into the paint, and when Mountaineer defenders rotated to help, their men were left open for easy passes and scores. A perturbed Huggins, after calling timeout, went to a pair of defenses that he had employed a good bit in previous years, but very little in 2009.
"We played a little bit of 1-3-1 and more of the point drop," Huggins said of the move. "We haven't spent much time on that, but the veteran guys kind of know what they are doing. We haven't played that much all year."
Both defenses allow West Virginia to defend opposing ball handlers on the perimeter, but provide more support behind the initial match-up out front. That made it more difficult for the guards to penetrate, and allowed WVU to limit the drive and dish opportunities the Herd was getting. Of course, no defense is a magic bullet that solves all ills, and what shut down one Marshall opportunity opened another. The zones, even though extended to the wings, still allowed the Herd some shooting chances from long range, which they connected on in the second half to keep the game close. In the end, however, the lack of easier chances allowed the Mountaineers to keep the lead throughout the second half.
"It's good to change it up once in a while. They were getting a lot of paint touches," Da'Sean Butler said. "We wanted to give them a different look. We switched from the 1-3-1 [to the point drop] and then back to the man-to-man, and wanted to keep them from getting too comfortable."
Might there be more appearances of these looks in the remaining games of the year? Much depends on the characteristics of opponents, but with WVU struggling to limit penetration at times, the two zones give the Mountaineers another option to call upon when it can't keep the ball out of the lane.
There's another factor in play, however, and it's one that has been repeated several times this year. Guard Truck Bryant admitted it after the contest, but promised that it would not be an issue again.
"We did have a hard time keeping them out of the lane, and we just weren't ready to play in the first half," the forthright New York native said. "This is a tough game every year, but we took them lightly. We've lost a couple of games, so we can't do that. I think we've lost enough. We just have to be mentally ready."
Words, as everyone knows are easier to formulate than to back up, and West Virginia's slow starts and lack of attention to detail and coaching input have been ongoing problems this year. However, Bryant said that won't be an issue, and that West Virginia's play down the stretch showed it. When Marshall rallied to cut WVU's lead to one, the Mountaineers were able to respond and keep the Herd from taking the lead.
"That was good, and it shows there are some bright spots -- that if we have the lead we can keep it, Bryant said. "I won't say we redeemed ourselves from the Syracuse game just yet, but we are building our confidence back up. We're getting experience, and playing in a lot of close games."