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Five Takeaways: WVU’s Defense is Better Than Advertised

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MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – The West Virginia defense looked great against Pitt in the Backyard Brawl victory, on Friday night, forcing 32 turnovers.

In the first two games, the Mountaineers have forced 57 turnovers off of great on-ball pressure from guards Kedrian Johnson and Malik Curry. Pitt struggled once Johnson and Curry doubled-teamed the ball handler. Johnson had seven steals against Pitt, while Curry had two.

The Panthers scored 59 points off of 57 precent shooting from the field. It didn’t seem like they were shooting great because they didn’t take a lot of shots.

WVU head coach Bob Huggins has been very negative on the defense since practice officially started six weeks ago. Is he seeing improvement?

“Yeah, I think this is how we have to play. We aren’t big enough to go slug it out with people,” Huggins said. “So, we’re going to have to make them play the way we play, we’re going to have to make them play faster.”

Rebounding Once Again an Issue

Against Oakland, the Mountaineers were out-rebounded by 15. This time around, Pitt out-rebounded West Virginia 36-20.

The Panthers had 13 second-chance points in the loss.

Between Isaiah Cottrell, Dimon Carrigan, Gabe Osabuohien and Pauly Paulicap, the four combined for five rebounds. That’s not so good when your four big men are combining for five rebounds. On the flip side, Taz Sherman and Jalen Bridges stepped up on the boards, Sherman had five rebounds, while Bridges had six.

What’s it going to take for the Mountaineers to fix the rebounding problem?

Kobe Johnson will be a Rotation Player in His Freshman Campaign

On Friday night, Huggins stayed consistent with his early rotation, as freshman Kobe Johnson checked into the game to make his Backyard Brawl debut.

Kobe Johnson appeared in the Oakland game, after Kedrian Johnson and Malik Curry were in foul trouble early on. This time around, not as much foul trouble from the two guard, but Huggins sent the freshman guard from Ohio in anyways.

Kobe Johnson played 13 minutes against Pitt, scoring on a deep two-pointer and a lay-up. It seems like the true freshman will continue to receive rotation minutes.

Sherman and McNeil need to Keep Shooting it

Sherman and McNeil both have experienced their struggles shooting the ball in the first two games. On Tuesday, both guards struggled combining for 3-of-13 from three against the Golden Grizzlies.

McNeil shot it great on Friday night, shooting 4-of-9 from the field, while making 3-of-4 three’s attempted. Sherman on the other hand, not so hot, 6-of-20 from the field.

Huggins has went on to say that he wants them to just keep shooting it.

“We’re going to miss shots, I know that,” Huggins said. “Taz is going to miss shots, Taz has missed a bunch of shots but I sure don’t want Taz to stop shooting.”

This team, Luckily, has Six Weeks to Fix Problems Before Big 12 Play

Despite the 2-0 start against a good mid-major and a bad Power-5 school, West Virginia has a bunch of issues that they still need to fix.

Luckily, they have until the end of the calendar year to do so.

The Mountaineers need to improve on rebounding, free-throw shooting and the foul trouble, just to name a few. The shooting will come eventually, no one should be worried about the shooting. Players have bad nights. WVU shot great from beyond the arc, making 9-three’s on 41 percent shooting.

But, West Virginia needs to really try and fix these problems before Big 12 Conference play starts. They won’t be able to win by 15 if they get out-rebounded by 16.

(Top Photo: Kelsie LeRose – WVSN)

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Ethan Bock is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in journalism at WVU. He currently is an intern with the Final Fourcast podcast. Ethan has covered WVU football and men’s basketball for the last year. He is from Cincinnati, Ohio.

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