PITTSBURGH — Friday night against the Panthers, West Virginia was called for more fouls in a game than they were almost all of last season.
The Mountaineers’ 28 personal fouls were more in a single game than they had in all but three games last season. Foul calls appear to be up all over college basketball to start this season and head coach Bob Huggins expects that trend to continue.
“Well, they’re going to have to get used to it I think,” Huggins said. “It doesn’t look like it’s going to stop.”
The Mountaineers were caught in foul trouble almost immediately Friday night, with starting guard Jermaine Haley being called for two fouls in the first minute of the game. Because of that Haley, who eventually fouled out of the game, played only 48 seconds in the first half.
Forward Derek Culver was also limited in the game due to fouls. Culver finished the game with four fouls in 19 minutes played. He only scored four points and had six rebounds.
“He got in foul trouble early and it’s hard to sit over there,” Huggins said. “Especially when you’re used to playing and he’s used to playing.”
The star of the night was freshman Oscar Tshiebwe. After getting in foul trouble in the team’s first game, Tshiebwe knew he needed to avoid that against Pitt.
“Coaches told me ‘you have to stay away from foul trouble if you’re going to play basketball,” Tshiebwe said.
West Virginia’s team fouls per game are up this season compared to last, albeit through only two games.
Last season the Mountaineers averaged 19.7 personal fouls per game. Opponents averaged 21.3 fouls per game against the Mountaineers. This season WVU is averaging 25 and opponents 24.5.
WVU’s early-season opponents are also facing increased foul numbers. Akron, WVU’s first opponent, is averaging 18.7 fouls per game and Pitt is averaging 15.
Following the win over Akron, Huggins talked about the importance of being conscious of fouls.
“You can’t take plays off. And when you take plays off you get taken advantage of and then you end up in a situation where you get a foul that you shouldn’t have got,” Huggins said. “My dad used to say all the time ‘how many fouls do you get?’ At I’d say at first ‘five’. He said, ‘no you don’t, you get four. The fifth one they take you out’. So you really only have four fouls, you don’t have five.
“You can’t waste them because you took a play off or you took a couple plays off.”