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Mountaineers hone press for far better teams

By Staff | Dec 4, 2015

Some of the university’s publicity concerning West Virginia’s basketball team concentrates its focus on the Mountaineers’ full court pressure defense.

It’s reached the point where the publicity calls the team “Press Virginia”.

Teams know the pressure defense is coming. The opponents know the depth Coach Bob Huggins has and how the pressure might just melt away their resolve, endurance and chances of keeping pace with the hurry-up Mountaineers.

The depth-shy teams fade from contention. The talent-shy teams are steamrolled. Teams coming to the Coliseum are beaten the way visiting Bethune-Cookman was on Monday.

“Press Virginia” used its pressure to move quickly to leads of 8-0 and 22-5 en route to an imposing 97-44 win over the Florida-based Wildcats.

Why did the team from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference wither before the Mountaineers?

West Virginia owned a 50-28 rebounding advantage. Its pressure had caused nine turnovers in the first five minutes and continued on until there were 30 Wildcat turnovers in all.

There were 20 West Virginia assists and seven players scored in double figures, including three reserves.

From the field, the Mountaineers were 36-for-69 or 52 percent. They converted 17-of-24 free throws or 71 percent.

Bethune-Cookman was capsized by its turnovers, and its tiring legs saw it shoot poorly from the floor — when it was able to get off a shot in its halfcourt offense.

The Wildcats were one of nearly 10 or more teams that will wilt and fall to the thicket of arms, hands trying to pick their pockets and bodies pushed close to their dribbles.

West Virginia will snap the spines of the teams without much measure of resources when coming to the Coliseum.

However, the Mountaineer season will be judged by how the team fares against quality teams, especially on the road.

How many have forgotten the brutal 78-39 loss West Virginia suffered to Kentucky in the third round of last year’s NCAA tournament? Kentucky all but disregarded West Virginia’s pressure . . . and then doubled the score.

In West Virginia’s own league are Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Baylor. And Texas is now coached by Shaka Smart, just into Austin from much success at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Virginia and Florida are to be played on a neutral court and in Gainesville.

Quality teams with knowledgeable coaches playing at home don’t lose to pressure defense.

The Mountaineers were 4-0 after blasting the Wildcats. They were ranked in the top 25. And they were finding reasons to smile because of the early-season play of freshman Teyvon Myers, the continued hustle of every player Huggins calls on and Devin Williams giving the coach double-doubles (points and rebounds) in every game this year.

But don’t expect the seven or eight best teams on the schedule to melt into stagnant puddles when seeing West Virginia come to town or play them on a neutral court.