The post game interview from Bob Huggins was very indicative of where this team is at. Pissed is an understatement for what he was feeling. The Mountaineers have had issues in previous years on the offensive end, no longer being able to press, or just internal issues with guys getting in trouble leaving the program. This is the first time I can remember where the number one issue was a lack of effort on defense. You can see part of his comments below.
We’ve seen some of this before. This time of the year is where the team seems to lose focus. Even the sweet sixteen and final four teams went through stretches that had Huggins calling them out for a lack of effort. He is blatantly honest and want’s the best out of his guys. He knows that he needs them to step up in a big way as they take on #23 Kansas, #13 Texas Tech, #9 Oklahoma, #2 Baylor twice, and #6 Texas all in a fourteen day span.
We’ve seen stretches of this team being able to guard. Deuce can do it. Kedrian can do it. Bridges can do it. Gabe can do it. Emmitt can do it. Culver can do it. You just don’t see it from those guys every second that they’re on the court. They need to because you have other guys that need to be in the game so you can continue to score that are nothing more than a body on the defensive end. A missed rotation, a bad closeout, not hustling back, not boxing out. Things that could be hidden if the other four guys were all in position ready to help. But if you have guys that can’t keep people in front, don’t understand where they’re supposed to be in the rotation, or just refuse to step inside the three point line for defensive rebounds, a good player’s momentary lapse looks a lot worse.
The lack of depth on this team is really starting to be a big factor for how far this team can go. I’m not even worried about the loss of Tshiebwe. Opening up the offense helped turn this season around. The loss of Cottrell hurts because it has forced Emmitt and Jalen into playing almost exclusively the four position. If Cottrell were healthy, you could go with him and Culver up front and Gabe coming off the bench. I still think those two would see time at the four but it wouldn’t be their permanent position. That gives them some time at the three and not having to put so much effort into guarding big guys down low. They not only can stay fresh and play better minutes but that helps sure up the guard positions so they can rotate in and give short bursts of good minutes. Having to play Taz and Sean extended minutes at the two and the three is not only exposing them defensively, but taking away from what they can do offensively at times.
I know none of this can be fixed because we won’t see Cottrell again this season but I wanted to give my opinion on what I’m seeing when I watch this team play. With that, I’ll get into the regularly scheduled program of the grades right after you rewatch the two big dunks from last night.
Miles McBride – Deuce played ok. He missed a few shots at the rim and didn’t get to double digits for the second game in a row. He is one of the few guys I trust on the defensive end but he needs to stay home instead of always trying to attack the ball. If the guy with the ball is ready for it, it’s an easy pass and a wide open three.
9 points, 3 assists, 8 rebounds
Jordan McCabe – McCabe hit a three early and had a team high five assists. But athleticism has showed that there is a step between him and other guards in this league. You can tell he sees the game well but the game is at a different speed than what he’s playing.
6 points, 5 assists, 1 rebound
Taz Sherman – Taz leads the way in the scoring department and hit five free throws in the final two minutes. Two of them made it a four point game with six seconds to go. I’ll keep saying it though. I think a lot of the words that Bob Huggins said in the post game is pointed at him.
18 points, 2 assists, 3 rebounds
Jalen Bridges – Bridges took a back seat to Emmitt Matthews in this one but I thought he looked good in the minutes he played. He missed a dunk and a few layups but is still one of the few guys I trust on the other end. One area he needs to improve on is throwing a body on guys and grabbing rebounds.
3 points, 0 assists, 2 rebounds
Derek Culver – Culver had a good start to the game, getting to another double double in only 21 minutes. He missed a few bunnies which we haven’t seen as much of this season. The game changed to a five guard style during the Iowa State comeback which forced Bob Huggins to sit him down in favor of Gabe.
13 points, 0 assists, 12 rebounds
Sean McNeil – I’m very surprised when I checked the stat sheet and saw McNeil had three rebounds. Go back and watch the film. He does not like to step inside the three point line. Put a body on somebody and go grab the basketball. You don’t have to be 6’9 and taller to rebound. And if he takes one more deep three as a heat check after one made three, I don’t think he should see the court again for awhile.
13 points, 1 assist, 3 rebounds
Emmitt Matthews – I was waiting for Emmitt to get healthy to really judge him and I thought he played one of his best games of the season. He grabbed 7 rebounds which is important for this team. He needs to always be in the 6 to 8 range. And how about that dunk? Once every couple of games we see his insane hops and he caught a body in this one. He was out done by Greg Brown from Texas but I’ll still take it.
13 points, 0 assist, 7 rebounds
Gabe Osabuohien – Gabe came back in a big way after a few quiet games and had to play big minutes down the stretch to help get the win. He took a charge and probably should have got another one on the last possession. The play still resulted in a turnover.
0 points, 2 assists, 4 rebounds
Kedrian Johnson – I don’t have much to say about Johnson in this one. He played well in his limited time. You know what you’re gonna get from him. Any points you get is a plus.
1 points, 0 assist, 0 rebound