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Huggins Wants to Run Two Bigs, but Won’t Force it



MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Bob Huggins has not been shy about what he wants his lineup to look like this season.

Huggins has repeatedly said that he wants to play two bigs and outrebound the other team. The three bigs that will rotate are sophomore Derek Culver, freshman Oscar Tshiebwe and senior Logan Routt.

“If we’re going to play Oscar and Derek together we should outrebound everybody, there’s not any reason why we don’t or we can’t,” Huggins said after the team’s game Monday.

Monday’s victory over Northern Colorado was the first time this season when Huggins shied away from his preferred two-big lineup. Huggins decided to bench the sophomore Culver in the first half and started a third guard, Taz Sherman, in his place.

The Mountaineers played much of the game without two big men, They had no other choice according to Huggins.

“We went smaller out of necessity today because Oscar was struggling a little bit and then Logan ] came in and he wasn’t his usual self so we went smaller,” Huggins said. “We’re not going to do that very often.”

When WVU goes smaller, a third guard come into the game and Emmitt Matthews Jr., who usually plays the wing, moves into one of the forwards’ roles.

In the team’s three games this season, there has not been a game in which more than one big played well.

Against Akron, Culver scored 16 and had seven rebounds, but Tshiebwe got in foul trouble in the first half and did not play much.

At Pittsburgh, Tshiebwe had 20 points and 17 rebounds, but Culver and Routt combined for four points and eight rebounds.

On Monday, Culver ended up having a good second half, scoring 13 points in 11 minutes, but both Tshiebwe and Routt struggled again.

“Oscar looked like a freshman again, he went too fast,” Huggins said. “As much as you say ‘slow down, slow down, slow down’, he didn’t slow down. Logan wasn’t as good as he’s been. Quite frankly I’m struggling to figure out how we’re supposed to play in the post because it doesn’t seem to be the same all the time.”

Huggins said that Tshiebwe will improve the more he plays, but Huggins is not willing to play him if Tshiebwe is not playing well.

“He’s got to put time in and he’s got to get experience and we’re trying to give him experience, but we’re not going to get him experience at the cost of losing games because of it,” Huggins said. “He doesn’t want that either.”

Other players recognize how important it can be for the bigs to be involved and playing well. Sherman said their flexibility defensively takes a lot of pressure off the guards when they are in the game.

“Some teams can switch, but they don’t want to switch with their fives because they’re not comfortable with their fives,” Sherman explained. “(Culver) can move like a guard, Oscar we can get moving like a guard and Logan is disciplined. Being able to switch on some (screens) is easier on the guards. Especially not going over every screen, not getting hit by every screen, switching and just maintain defensive presence, which is easy.”

The bigs make a difference on offense when they enter the game too.

“Numbers get called and different plays get called for certain guys, so it definitely changes the flow of the game,” Jermaine Haley said.

Culver (6-foot-10), Tshiebwe (6-foot-9) and Routt (6-foot-10) have easily out-sized each of their opponents thus far, but the Big 12 is full of talented big men that could give the Mountaineer trouble if WVU’s trio does not get going.

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