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Eilert ‘Could’ Make 2-3 Defense a Staple at West Virginia This Year



WVU Basketball Josh Eilert
Kelsie LeRose / WVSN

WVU interim HC Josh Eilert has been incorporating a 2-3 zone at the beginning of the season. West Virginia did not expect to use the zone defense until they were forced to roll out with an eight-man rotation. Now it seems like perfect sense for the Mountaineers to keep using it.

“Could be a staple,” Eilert said following a 13-point win over Jacksonville State. “We’ll see. Nothing is off the table when you’re trying to win games.”

This is all pretty new to Eilert as the Kansas native worked under Bob Huggins for nearly two decades. Huggins rarely ran zone defense throughout his career, but now with the Basketball Hall of Famer gone, it’s the perfect time to try something new. West Virginia’s biggest offseason addition was Syracuse big man Jesse Edwards, who played under Jim Boeheim for four years. Boeheim is notorious for running a 2-3 zone defense. With Edwards down low at the five, the 6-foot-11 big can help his teammates become better running the zone.

“You know with Jesse, he’s a natural back there. He spent four years in a zone so we picked up a few things that we could just nail down. We didn’t get over complicated by any means with it. We just wanted to pick two or three things,” Eilert said. “Most kids have played a 2-3 zone so it’s not like it’s crazy unnatural. There are things he’s given us that we can utilize.”

West Virginia played more zone defense than man-to-man for the first time this season, according to Synergy Basketball. WVU had played only two possessions in zone against Monmouth. The Mountaineers then played 35 possessions of zone against Jacksonville State on Tuesday.

WVU G Kobe Johnson, who played under Huggins for two seasons, talked about the difference between man and zone defenses.

“It does feel different, it’s different than picking up full court but I get a little rest on my legs in 2-3,” he said.

West Virginia will have a few more days off before traveling to Florida for the Fort Myers Invitational. WVU will play SMU in the first round on Monday night and will play Wisconsin or Virginia on Wednesday.

Watch the WVSN postgame show below that discusses what changed from the Monmouth result to the JSU win.

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