From here on out, things are going to be different.
They might not be better, but they will be different. It was a four-guard line-up that the Mountaineers used to erase a 17-point second half deficit against Iowa State, and from here on out, a four-guard line-up, it shall be. That’s what Bob Huggins told reporters after the 69-67 loss.
To erase a 17-point lead, though, you have to first get down by 17, which West Virginia did by a stretch of truly awful, awful basketball to start the second half. Here’s how Bob Huggins explained the Cyclones’ offensive orgy that put us in a huge hole (so to speak).
“They ball-screened and our bigs didn’t do anything. Honestly. It was our bigs. They were supposed to hard-hedge, they didn’t hard-hedge. They just kind of stood back there in the lane. I got like three guys (who) think they’re Shaq. Except they’re not. They just stood back there.”
When a team is defending the pick-and-roll via with the hard-hedge, and the big man hedges lazily or not all, it leaves a guard with more room than he knows what to do with. Unfortunately, Iowa State’s guards figured out what to do with it, and they moved the ball efficiently and got wide-open shot after wide-open shot. It was embarrassing. We were like a slot machine that wouldn’t stop paying out.
So we changed things up. How, Bob?
“We changed line-ups. We changed line-ups and tried to spread them and penetrate and get shots and we played with one big. We played with the one big that actually tried to get a rebound. I always thought if you tried to get one and got one, you might like it and you might wanna get another one. We just have guys that obviously haven’t gotten any. They haven’t fallen in love with it.”
So you can go ahead and fall in love with Kevin Noreen, because you’re going to be seeing a lot more of him. It will be him, Juwan Staten, Jabarie Hinds, and some combination of Gary Browne, Matt Humphrey, Terry Henderson and Eron Harris. My guess is that Dominic Rutledge will be the first one off the bench to relieve Noreen.
The Noreen and Four Dwarves line-up was effective. They created better looks than we’ve seen all season with that line-up, and obviously, we shot the ball infinitely better than we’ve seen this season. We finished the game making 7-of-9 three balls, after having missed our first 12.
The change will stick, says Bob. And what of the bigs?
“I’m not doing it anymore. I’m done. They’ve had ample opportunity. They’ve had over half the season. I mean, how can it be worse? We’re 1-3. How can it be worse?”
The “they” referenced above are Deniz Kilicli and Aaric Murray, of course, who got 10 and 19 minutes tonight, respectively. Those numbers will shrink further. It’s a little bit of a shame, since they’re both extremely talented, but it would be difficult to argue that Bob is being unfair when he says both men have had ample opportunity.
If they’re not rebounding and they’re not playing adequate defense, they can’t be on the floor. They don’t score enough to justify their minutes.
Here were the rebounding numbers for our bigs tonight, with their per-40 minute averages:
Kevin Noreen: 8 rebounds (13.8 per 40 minutes)
Dominic Rutledge: 4 rebounds (11.4 per 40 minutes)*
Aaric Murray: 2 rebounds (8 per 40 minutes)
Deniz Kilicli: 3 rebounds (6.3 per 40 minutes)
* = all of Rutledge’s rebounds were offensive.
Not much further commentary is needed. Both Kilicli and Murray should be embarrassed by those numbers.
Let’s hit you with the positive and negatives:
Juwan Staten burst forth from the doghouse. After a game and a half off, Juwan Staten entered the game in the first-half and made his presence felt. It’s clear that he’s a player we need. He’s got a quickness and a penetrating ability that no one else has, and with a four-guard line-up that will likely produce more three-point shots, he could be a fun, fun player. He defended his ass off, too.
Feel free to do that again, Eron Harris. Harris had 17 points on the night, 14 of them in the second half. After the break, he shot 5-of-5 from the field, 4 of them from beyond the arc. Sweet sassy molassey, do we need a shooter. More of this, please.
Heart? Tenacity? Blah. I guess it makes us all feel better to say that we fought hard to come back, but at the end of the day, what’s that worth, really? And is it not cancelled out by the depressing, slothful, flaccid way we started the second half? Effort and fight are great. You can only dig yourself so many holes, though, before they become not enough.
Moral victories aren’t worth a goddamn thing. 1-3 is 1-3. No one cares if the games are close and no one cares how hard we’re playing. The next three ‒ @Purdue, TCU, @Oklahoma State ‒ are winnable. A conference record of 3-3, with Kansas coming to the Coliseum on the 28th, wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.