Pressure Point

WVU head basketball coach Bob Huggins sees a typical high-pressure Louisville team coming to town on Saturday, albeit one that has tweaked a few of its signature defensive looks.

"They do a great job of pressuring the ball, even though they've changed up the way they press a little bit," Huggins said of the Cardinals' full-court defensive tactics. "They've changed up the way they play their 2-3 a little, but they still do a good job and get pressure. That little guy over there (head coach Rick Pitino) is a good coach."

Huggins knows his team will face a challenge in defeating that pressure – something it couldn't quite overcome in a pair of losses a year ago. In those games, Devin Ebanks was a key in breaking the press, but with his injured hand and lessened ballhandling ability, it's questionable if he'll be able to fill the same role on Saturday. The Cardinals will certainly unleash the full fury of their pressure defense against the Mountaineers, who haven't seen big pressure in the backcourt since December.

Another area of concern for Huggins is Louisville's big physical presence inside. Samardo Samuels (6-9, 260 lbs.) and Terrence Jennings (6-10, 240 lbs.) give West Virginia some issues to cope with in the paint.

"Samuels is tough, and he's touch for us to match up with," Huggins said of the big sophomore. "We're small. And Jennings gives them more great size. He's a terrific offensive rebounder. When they're in together, they have great ability to get second shots."

In addition to handling UofL's pressure, the battle of the board should be a key factor in the outcome of Saturday's contest.


RIFLE REPORTS

Huggins continues to be puzzled by his team's low shooting percentage, but other than correcting form flaws that occasionally crop up, there's not much he or his staff can do to correct the problem.

"I'm not sure what the reason it," he said for the umpteenth time this year. "Whether it's nerves or something else, I don't know. We are getting good shots."

He still has one more game to sit out, but the debut of freshman Deniz Kilicli is now within site. The native of Turkey will be eligible to participate against Pitt next Wednesday.

"He gives us what we haven't had, which is some size and girth in the lane," Huggins noted. "Because of that, we've had trouble scoring the ball at the rim, and he could help. It's a touchy thing to try to work him in quickly, because we need to make sure he understands everything we are doing."

Huggins said he doesn't foresee a starting role anytime soon for Kilicli, but that he could earn "significant minutes" depending on his play.

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Huggins would like to see the NBA's rule that prohibits high schoolers from jumping directly to the league to be expanded.

"I think two years would be the right thing to do," he said. "I think the rule has helped kids that were on college campuses to mature."

Currently, a player must be out of high school for at least one year before playing in the NBA.

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Finally, it wouldn't be a true Bob Huggins interview session without a bit of deadpan humor. When asked about Joe Mazzulla's shoulder, and the reason for his short stint (four minutes of playing time) against DePaul, the veteran coach cracked, "His shoulder is better, so he can foul with both hands now. He got four fouls in four minutes."

Huggins typically follows up such jests with more explanation, and he did so in this case as well.

"It's a gradual process, but his shoulder is getting better. He's starting to be able to shoot the ball with some range. Before, he couldn't do that, but he's starting to shoot some three-pointers now."

Mazzulla hasn't uncorked a shot from distance yet this year, but recently went back to his natural left-handed shot from the free throw line. He's made 52% of his shots from the field (all from in the lane) but has gone just 9-23 from the free throw line. He is 2-6 shooting left-handed this year.


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