Advertisement

Getting to know No. 11 West Virginia, which thrives on thievery, second chances

Advertisement

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins shouts instructions to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against TCU Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins shouts instructions to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against TCU Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Sure, No. 1-ranked Kansas has faced a couple of the nation’s top teams this season. But Bill Self’s Jayhawks have yet to experience a road game against a top-10 caliber opponent.

So even though KU defeated No. 2 Oklahoma in triple overtime last week and lost on a neutral floor to No. 4 Michigan State in November, Tuesday night’s game at No. 11 West Virginia (14-1 overall, 3-0 Big 12) will present an entirely new kind of trial.

Not only do coach Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers have the benefit of playing with the support of their frenzied fan base, but WVU plays the kind of defense few teams in the nation are capable of duplicating.

Ranked No. 10 by kenpom.com, the Mountaineers boast the nation’s No. 7 adjusted defensive efficiency, according to college basketball’s math wizard.

So, how does West Virginia do it? Well…

- WVU leads the country in steals (11.3) and forced turnovers (21.1).

- WVU ranks second in 3-point field goal percentage defense (25.4%) and turnover margin (+6.3 per game).

- WVU is forcing its opponents to turn it over on 27.5 percent of their possessions, and averaging 26.6 points off turnovers.

- WVU has forced 30 or more turnovers in three games this season, has recorded at least seven steals in every game and has forced 14 or more turnovers in every game.

- WVU is holding its opponents to 0.85 points per possession, the second-lowest rate in the country, behind Purdue (0.83).

To put it another way: yikes.

Offensively, missed shots have not necessarily meant empty possessions for West Virginia this season. The Mountaineers rank second nationally in offensive rebounds per game (17.3) and they score 20.7 second-chance points per game. WVU has taken 233 more shots than its foes this season — an average of 15.5 more shots per game.

As you would expect from a Huggins team, these Mountaineers scrap on both ends of the floor. With that in mind, Self’s Jayhawks (88.4 points per game, second in the nation to The Citadel’s 90.1 ppg) likely could greatly increase their chances of staying unbeaten in the league — and taking sole possession of first place in the Big 12 — by scoring 69 points at WVU Coliseum. West Virginia has won 32 games in a row when holding opponents below that magic number.

Here are the Mountaineers Kansas (14-1, 3-0) has to keep in check to avoid its second loss of the season and take another step toward a 12th consecutive Big 12 title.

WEST VIRGINIA STARTERS

No. 41 — F Devin Williams | 6-9, 255, jr.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) drives around West Virginia forward Devin Williams (5) during the Jayhawks game against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) drives around West Virginia forward Devin Williams (5) during the Jayhawks game against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Mike Yoder

  • West Virginia’s leading scorer (14.5 points) and rebounder (8.6 boards), junior Devin Williams has 6 double-doubles this season, and 26 career double-figure rebounding games.

  • Williams takes shots exclusively inside the 3-point arc and shoots 54%.

  • While Williams can hit 2-point jumpers from time to time — 18 of 48, 37.5% — 65% of his shots come at the rim, and he converts 62.9% from point-blank range, per hoop-math.com.

  • A key player in WVU’s second-chance scoring, Williams averages 3.4 offensive rebounds a game. The big man has 29 put-backs on the season.

  • Williams draws fouls more often than any WVU player, and shoots 73.7% (70 of 95).

No. 2 — G Jevon Carter | 6-2, 195, soph.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) beats West Virginia guard Jevon Carter (2) to a steal Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse..

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) beats West Virginia guard Jevon Carter (2) to a steal Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse..

  • One of the few Mountaineers KU will have to defend from long range, sophomore Jevon Carter averages 12.7 points and is hitting 37.3% from behind the 3-point arc (25 of 67).

  • Even more importantly, the Jayhawks better keep at least one eye on Carter when he’s on defense. A member of the Big 12’a All Defensive Team as a freshman, he averages 2.1 steals per game as a sophomore.

  • Twice this season (vs. UL Monroe and N. Kentucky) recorded 5 steals in a game.

  • When Carter isn’t taking 3-pointers, he often is getting to the rim, where he has made 28 of 47 attempts (59.6%) or setting up his teammates (3.3 assists).

  • The team’s best free-throw shooter has made 36 of 44 (81.8%).

No. 5 — G Jaysean Paige | 6-2, 210, sr.

None by Big 12 Conference

  • A slightly better 3-point shooter than Carter at this stage, senior Jaysean Paige (12.6 points) comes in hitting 39.7% from deep (25 of 63).

  • Named Big 12 Player of the Week on Jan. 4, Paige went from a 6th man to a starter this week.

  • Scored a career-best 25 points in WVU’s double-overtime win at Kansas State and a team-high 16 points in the Mountaineers’ only loss this season, versus Virginia, in New York.

  • Put up a game-high 20 points in only 15 minutes in WVU’s win at TCU.

  • Has finished 34 of 50 shots at the rim (68%).

No. 1 — Jonathan Holton | 6-7, 220, sr.

  • A high-riser who goes to work on the offensive glass every time WVU takes a shot, senior Jonathan Holton (9.7 points, 7.3 rebounds) is seventh in the nation in offensive rebounds per game (4.2).

  • Kansas knows all too well what kind of damage Holton does on offense. He grabbed 5 offensive boards in KU’s overtime win vs. WVU last season and 6 in West Virginia’s one-point win over Kansas earlier last year.

  • Like Wiliams, Holton has 29 put-backs on the offensive glass this season. Holton has taken 68.6% of his shots at the rim, where he makes 65.7%.

  • Had 15 rebounds agains N. Kentucky and 13 at Virginia Tech.

  • Holton should pass up more 3-pointers than he does — has made 5 of 23 (21.7%).

No. 23 — F Esa Ahmad | 6-8, 225, fr.

  • Not much of a scorer (4.8 points, 38.1% field goals), freshman Esa Ahmad does give Huggins some productivity on the offensive glass (1.3 offensive boards in 19.9 minutes). The big man has 8 put-backs this season.

  • While more than half (54%) of Ahmad’s attempts come at the rim, where he has made 19 of 34 (55.9%), he’s 4-for-17 on 2-point jumpers and 1-for-12 on 3-pointers.

  • He does contribute defensively, with 20 steals (4th on the team).

  • If Ahmad has KU beat on a play inside, the Jayhawks might as well foul him. He shoots 54.8% (23 of 42) at the free-throw line.

WEST VIRGINIA BENCH

No. 4 — G Daxter Miles Jr. | 6-3, 195, soph.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre, Jr. (12) goes out of bound battling for a ball with West Virginia guard Daxter Miles Jr. (4) during the Jayhawks 62-61 loss game against the West Virginia Mountaineers Monday, February 16, 2105  in Morgantown, W.V.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre, Jr. (12) goes out of bound battling for a ball with West Virginia guard Daxter Miles Jr. (4) during the Jayhawks 62-61 loss game against the West Virginia Mountaineers Monday, February 16, 2105 in Morgantown, W.V.

  • An injured ankle meant sophomore Daxter Miles Jr. (12.1 points) missed WVU’s win over Oklahoma State, leading to Paige’s insertion in the starting lineup. Huggins said Monday Miles has practiced the last two days and should play vs. Kansas.

  • WVU will be glad to get Miles back. He has scored in double figures in 18 of his last 22 games.

  • Miles scored 23 points and made 5 of 9 from 3-point range in West Virginia’s OT loss at Allen Fieldhouse last season.

  • Like Carter, Miles averages 2.1 steals per game. He set a career high with 6 steals in WVU’s win over San Diego State.

  • A good finisher inside (33 of 48 at the rim), Miles also takes nearly half of his shots from 3-point land. However, he has not shot the ball well from deep this season (17 of 59, 28.8%).

No. 12 — G Tarik Phillip | 6-3, 200, jr.

  • Both a taker and a giver, junior backup guard Tarik Phillip averages 1.9 steals per game and 3.3 assists in 21.3 minutes.

  • Averaging 7.7 points this year, Phillip scored 13 points off the bench at Allen Fieldhouse last season.

  • Scored 18 points off the bench in WVU’s win at TCU.

  • Put up 14 points and scored the go-ahead bucket in the Mountaineers’ double-OT win at K-State.

No. 45 — F Elijah Macon | 6-9, 235, soph.

None by Keenan Cummings

  • When sophomore Elijah Macon (6.4 points) gets a shot up, odds are it’s going in. Macon is shooting 64.9% from the field (37 of 57) in 14.3 minutes a game.

  • As you might expect with those kind of numbers, Macon lives at the rim on offense. The backup big has made 32 of 43 shots at the rim (74.4%).

  • Macon has turned 10 of his 20 offensive rebounds this season into put-backs.

  • Leads WVU with 9 blocks and averages 3.9 rebounds in limited playing time.

  • Another WVU big man KU should consider fouling if he’s about to get an easy look, Macon has only hit 47.8% of his free throws (22 of 46) this season.

Comments

Jay Scott 5 years, 8 months ago

Who starts and what minutes they play has been unpredictable for Huggy. That's Huggins.

They've only been tested four times. A total fail vs Virginia on a neutral floor, a close-ish win over 9-6 Richmond in Vegas, a close-ish win at TCU and a 2OT squeaker over KSU at Allen West. ONE win over a projected tournament team. He's used a variety of players and there's no pattern.

Len Shaffer 5 years, 8 months ago

Thanks for the info., Jay. I was wondering about how tough a schedule they'd played. That certainly skews their stats somewhat, although it will obviously still be a tough test.

Steve Zimmerman 5 years, 8 months ago

Their roster looks lengthy and athletic, but my concern is more about their aggressiveness. They seem to get away with physical plays. Our guys just need to keep their heads cool.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.