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WVU’s Perimeter Defense Isn’t the Real Problem, What Is It?

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Kelsie LeRose / WVSN

Well, Bob Huggins was right.

“What did Al Davis say? Just win, baby. Just win,” Huggins said on Tuesday.

The Mountaineers are 5-1, defeating everyone on their schedule but a loss to Marquette, last Friday. WVU has beaten two ACC schools in Pitt and Clemson but has struggled against three mid-majors.

Is it time for West Virginia fans to panic?

Nope.

The mid-major schools — Oakland, Elon and Eastern Kentucky — are all teams that could win their respective conferences and compete in the NCAA Tournament. A lot of why they played close games with WVU is the fact that they’re three-point shooting teams.

If anything, scheduling these mid-majors was a great thing for West Virginia. The team needs to improve on their perimeter defense and yet between Oakland, Elon and EKU, the three schools combined for 79 three-point attempts versus WVU. The three schools combined shot 27-of-79 (34 percent) from three.

For Huggins, it’s actually not the three-point defense that’s a problem. What is it then?

“It’s the penetration you give that enables them to be a three-point shooting team,” Huggins said. “If you can keep them on the perimeter, if you can jam up the middle to where they can’t penetrate and pitch it right, that’s the difference.”

In the first few games of the season, we’ve seen the Mountaineers double the ball handler. The players that are double-teaming are usually Kedrian Johnson and Malik Curry. When those two double the ball handler, the result is either a steal or a three-pointer. If the team can move the ball around well, then it always results in an open three. Just look at the Marquette game, that’s how they were able to gain some breathing room and defeat WVU.

Coming into Friday’s game, Eastern Kentucky was first in the country at three-point attempts, averaging 35.0 per game. Against the Mountaineers, the Colonels took 29 three’s. That’s a great opportunity for a team to rack up a lot of points very quickly. And they did just that, as with the first four possessions of the game, Eastern Kentucky scored 12 points off of 4-three’s.

“They [EKU] was shooting the ball today,” WVU guard Malik Curry said with a smile after the game.

With the problem being that the defense allows teams to drive in so easily, the team needs to focus on keeping the teams at the perimeter and make sure that they don’t drive and kick it out for a three-point shot.

“Very few people make three-point shots on the move. They are step-in shots,” Huggins said. “That’s all because of penetration and they were able to spread them.”

As the Mountaineers continues go through the non-conference schedule, it is good that these teams are shooting the ball a bunch from behind the arc. They say practice makes perfect, so it’ll be interesting to see how the perimeter defense develops throughout the season.

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Ethan Bock is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in journalism at WVU. He currently is an intern with the Final Fourcast podcast. Ethan has covered WVU football and men’s basketball for the last year. He is from Cincinnati, Ohio.

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