After a sluggish start in their last loss to Missouri, the West Virginia Mountaineers’ (6-3) must pick up the pace when the Gonzaga Bulldogs (7-1) come calling Tuesday night.
The Zags will be traveling all the way across the country to Morgantown. Last year, West Virginia played in Spokane, Washington against the Zags in ESPN’s 24 Hour Tip-Off, and let’s just say it wasn’t a pretty sight if you’re a Mountaineer supporter.
But then again, the entire 2012-2013 season wasn’t a pretty sight for WVU.
If this team is really interested in taking the next step, West Virginia needs to make shots early and often in order to gain some confidence. They didn’t make shots in the first half against Missouri, as a result it was too much for them to recover from.
The fact that WVU is playing Gonzaga at home should make a big difference with this young team that is without a senior on its roster. However, most of the students should be on break, so we’ll have to take a wait and see approach regarding crowd intensity.
West Virginia’s largest crowd this season at the Coliseum is 8,336 for Mount St.Mary’s in the season opener, since then, it’s been a struggle to draw more than 5 thousand people at home.
The high-scoring Mountaineers were held to just 71 points at Missouri, and they were lucky to get that many. If not for a scoring resurgence late in the game West Virginia would’ve lost by much more.
One reoccurring theme I’ve noticed in West Virginia’s three loses, so far, is they’re missing easy shots right around the basket. Multiple blown layups can be deflating, and often times when the WVU guards get in the paint among taller defenders, their shots become altered.
Even Terry Henderson just flat out missed an alley-oop from point blank range against Missouri, they must concentrate on finishing around the rim. Why work so hard in order to get to the bucket and not finish the easy ones?
Another point I’d like to touch on is defense. The Mountaineers’ aren’t very good at it.
West Virginia simply couldn’t stay in front of the bigger Missouri guards. Jordan Clarkson did just about anything he wanted to, early and often, and it didn’t matter if WVU played zone or man against him.
Missouri posted Clarkson up on the low block a few times and he beat the Mountaineers’ to death in the transition game, moving up and down the floor with ease.
It seems the key to this WVU team finally turning things around is understanding what head coach Bob Huggins wants from them defensively. West Virginia will have to play zone defense against bigger teams all season long because they simply won’t be able to match up size wise.
No matter the defense they play on Tuesday night against Gonzaga, West Virginia needs make shots early, they don’t want to make a habit of not scoring in the first five minutes of any contest.
Shooting guard Terry Henderson seemed to be gaining some rhythm late against Missouri, it’ll really help if he can get things going.
Henderson has the athleticism to be a big time player, once he gains some confidence on a consistent basis, there’s no telling how good he can be.
And West Virginia did actually beat Missouri in the second-half 49-44, but ultimately there’s no telling how high this team’s ceiling just might be, until they start fast.