If there is one thing Bob Huggins knows how to do, it is how to get the most out of his players. The long-time West Virginia men’s basketball coach is well known for taking lower-rated, sparsely-recruited kids and turning them into highly productive college basketball players.
Huggins has put that skill on display in the Mountaineers’ most recent games with his end-of-game lineup management. In WVU’s last few games, Huggins has been using dead ball timeouts at the end of games to swap forwards Derek Culver and Gabe Osabuohien in and out of the lineup. Huggins puts Culver, who averages 15.1 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, in whenever the Mountaineers have the ball on offense and uses Osabuohien, the team’s best defender, exclusively on defense.
“I feel like it’s a really good strategy,” Culver said following the team’s most recent win over TCU on Tuesday. “You’ve got me with my rebounding on the offensive end and being able to score and Gabe on the defensive end with how active he is taking charges. It’s kind of like yin and yang, we complement each other.”
The strategy works, in part, because it allows Culver and Osabuohien to play to their individual strengths. On offense, teams have taken to double-teaming Culver this season, opening up the rest of WVU’s offense.
“If you get doubled, that means somebody else is open,” Huggins explained. “If you could slow down a little bit, take a look and find the open guy, we’ve got a bunch of guys who could make shots.”
On the defensive end, nobody on West Virginia has been as good at drawing fouls and taking charges as Osabuohien has been the last two seasons.
“He does a great job of positioning,” Huggins said. “He does a great job of getting his feet down. He has a really good understanding of people driving the ball and how quick they close on him. He’s very accomplished at it, he was good at it when he came to us from Arkansas.”
While some players might now like constantly coming on and off the floor, especially in critical moments late in games, Huggins said all Culver and Osabuohien care about is winning, so they are fine with it.
“Both of those guys just want to win so they’re going to do whatever I tell them to do because they want to win and they believe in the coaching staff,” Huggins said. “It’s pretty much just been offense/defense substitutions, it’s nothing earth-shattering.”
“We really aren’t going to complain, we know it’s the best for the team,” Culver added. “We have no problems doing it, so if the coach asks us to do that, there’s no problem to do it.”