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Under-Inflated Practice Balls Helping WVU Improve Passing and Ball Security



MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Ball security has been the focus for West Virginia basketball since committing 22 turnovers in a loss against St. John’s last week.

Saturday’s matchup was a good test for the Mountaineers as Nicholls State is one of the best teams in the nation at forcing turnovers. The Colonels entered Saturday’s contest averaging 11.2 steals and 21.2 forced turnovers per game.

After the loss to St. John’s, coach Bob Huggins had the team practice with an under-inflated basketball that did not bounce. This way players would be forced to focus on passing the ball instead of dribbling it.

“It was a huge thing for us,” guard Sean McNeil said. “Going through practice this past week, no bouncing the ball, it forces people to get open. It makes passes a lot easier when guys are wide open like that.”

If the first game after the loss, WVU turned the ball over 14 times against Austin Peay. On Saturday the Mountaineers turned the ball over 16 times in the 83-57 victory.

WVU’s main ball handlers – Jordan McCabe, Miles McBride and Brandon Knapper – combined for five assists and five turnovers. The Colonels also managed only nine steals.

McBride said staying calm and knowing where people were going to be helped them Saturday.

“We knew they were going to come and get after us,” McBride said. “They’re kind of like St. John’s, just a little bit more active with their bigs. Their bigs are really athletic and gave us problems anytime we drove. I think it’s us just staying under control and know that the help’s going to come and us kicking it to them.”

WVU’s big men also showed improvement hanging onto the ball. Against St. John’s, both Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe had five turnovers, but the duo only combined for five turnovers on Saturday.

With finals and Christmas break upcoming, WVU will not have full practice schedules for thier upcoming road games at Youngstown State and against Ohio State in Cleveland. Nevertheless, McBride thinks the deflated practice balls are there to stay.

“I think that’s going to be for the rest of the year because we continue to dribble and Huggs isn’t happy,” McBride said. “The more we move the ball the better shots we get.”

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