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It’s Not ‘Press Virginia,’ But WVU’s Full-Court Defense Has Been Effective So Far

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(photo: Dale Sparks/WVU Athletic Communications)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia University basketball fans will not be seeing Jevon Carter or Daxter Miles out on the court anytime soon, but the Mountaineers have recently been using a full-court defense reminiscent of those old ‘Press Virginia’ teams.

WVU coach Bob Huggins has moved away from using press defense the last couple of years but broke out some full-court pressure in each of the team’s last two games, to some degree of success.

After a flat first half against North Texas on Friday, WVU moved to a full-court pressure out of halftime and started the second half on an 18 to 0 run. Sunday against No. 19 Richmond, the Mountaineers used full-court pressure to outscore the Spiders 29-10 over the final seven minutes of the first half.

“The ability to have a different defense you can go to to speed people up and just get them uncomfortable is a great feeling,” senior guard Taz Sherman said following Sunday’s win. “We’re not ‘Press Virginia’ by any means but we have good athletes so I think we can speed people up, get a couple of steals here and there and get out on the fast break. But that’s mainly just to slow people down and give them 18, 15 seconds of the shot clock to run their half-court offense.”

Following Friday’s game, Huggins said the main difference between ‘Press Virginia’ and this season’s full-court defense is what they are trying to do. Huggins said this season is has been about speeding the other team up, getting them out of their half-court offense, whereas before it was about generating turnovers.

“We didn’t do much out of it, we just slowed them down,” Huggins said. “We weren’t really trying to steal the ball or make a lot of plays on the ball, more just trying to slow them down. Slow them down so we didn’t have to guard for the whole clock. This burnt some clock so they didn’t have as much time to do what they wanted to do.”

WVU forced 15 turnovers against North Texas, scoring 12 points off those turnovers and five on the fast break. Huggins said using the press defense will be a matter of matchup this season and Richmond’s pass-heavy offense made it a favorable matchup.

“I think it depends on the other team and their personnel,” Huggins said. “We just didn’t want to sit there and have to guard pass after pass, back cut after back cut, player screens and everything else they do. We just wanted to make them play faster. When you press and take some chances and double-team some things, they’re going to throw it out of there and have numbers which really does speed the game up and gets them out of offense.”

Against Richmond, the Mountaineers forced 16 turnovers, scored 19 points off them and 19 points on the fast break. Sophomore point guard Miles ‘Deuce’ McBride finished the game with three steals and scored a game-high 20 points.

The Mountaineers will start Big 12 conference play the next time out, taking on Iowa State at 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18 in the WVU Coliseum.

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Cody spent the last two years getting his master's degree in journalism from WVU. He graduated from Slippery Rock University in 2018 with a degree in digital media production. He was born and raised in Mercer, Pennsylvania.

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