The past few years, West Virginia has relied on turning their opponents over with their press to hide some of their deficiencies on the offensive end. The Mountaineers don’t have the experience and may lack the personnel to run their ‘Press Virginia’ style of defense. They do have plenty of scorers on the team, with four players averaging double figures, but the defense hasn’t been there.
They have hidden their short comings early in the season with their ability to shoot, hitting just under 46% on the year and averaging 86.4 points going into the game against Florida in the Jimmy V Classic. After the loss to the Gators, it’s become evident that they just can’t rely on their offense to carry them most of the season. They might have thought they would be better defensively coming into the season, but they have really struggled on that end of the floor.
It’s not just been the defense. Turnovers have also been an issue. West Virginia is averaging 15.3 turnovers through eight games and have only been under 10 turnovers twice (Valparaiso and Rider).
They need to excel another area and it’s got to be on the glass. West Virginia has always emphasized rebounding, but it’s clear that this needs to be the Mountaineers new niche. West Virginia head coach has said they spend a lot of time rebounding in practice. It’s time the players implement it on the floor.
West Virginia is now 1-2 when shooting under 45%. The Mountaineers shot just 29.7% from the field, which now sits as their worst shooting performance of the year. The previous mark was in a six-point (63-57) loss to Western Kentucky at the Myrtle Beach Invitational in early November. WVU shot 33.3% and committed 22 turnovers. However, they did have a +9-rebounding advantage.
In their only win shooting under 45% came against Rider. West Virginia finished the game shooting 42.9% from the field and they out-rebounded Broncs by 10.
If they can win the battle underneath by double-digits they will see more success. They need to be dominant in the paint and they have the bodies to do it. Whether it’s putting two of the bigs on the floor together or Lamont West, Wesley Harris and the guards being more active, they need to find a way.
Sagaba Konate is averaging 8.2 rebounds per game, but with his talent, he should be averaging a double-double, especially in this early portion of the schedule, he should be dominating the inside. In his first appearance against a power five school, he scored 4 points (2-10 fg), had six rebounds and fouled out in 18 minutes. Esa Ahmad is only averaging 5.4 rebounds per game and had seven in the loss to Florida. These two should be leading the way on the boards.
The Mountaineers are struggling early, and they need to find answers on the defensive end. In the meantime, these players need to box out and crash the glass. They have the length and athleticism to win underneath. It takes toughness and this front line needs to find it. They currently sit at a +6.3-rebounding advantage. They need to at least double that margin to find some consistency on the season.