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Justin Jackson | The Dominion Post | December 13, 2017

Bob Huggins wants more energy from WVU's press

  Bob Huggins' system at WVU relies on a good press. What happens when it's not working?

Bob Huggins is not calling for the end of 'Press' Virginia, but he needs to see something more from his players before it can be what it once was.

"Our pressure sucks," Huggins said after WVU's 69-60 victory over Pitt last Saturday. "We haven't done a very good job with it. We were scoring off our defense."

The Mountaineers are still one of the top teams in the country in forcing turnovers -- sixth overall in the NCAA, forcing 20.6 per game, while also ranking ninth in steals per game (10.5) -- but, as Pitt mounted a second-half run, it was not the Mountaineers' full-court press that kept them alive.

It was the Mountaineers' 1-3-1 zone defense.

"I was trying to survive," Huggins said. "We had three or four starters with four fouls."

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Throughout the season, the Mountaineers' once relentless trapping full-court defense has given way to more of a full-court man-to-man style.

There have been moments the press has come alive, most notably the 12 second-half turnovers forced against Missouri last month that helped the Mountaineers score 42 points in 15 minutes to pull off an 83-79 comeback victory against the Tigers.

Against Pitt, WVU forced 14 turnovers, a number that wasn't disappointing to Panthers' head coach Kevin Stallings.

"If you told me I could sign up for 14 turnovers tonight, I'd have taken it," he said.

The difference, Huggins said, was his team's lack of energy during games.

"We have to play with energy," Huggins said. "To play the way we play; that's why we couldn't press was because we had no energy."

On the 1-3-1

WVU players are not shying away from how much the unconventional zone defense has helped them.

"I think it throws teams off balance and helps us to waste clock," WVU point guard Jevon Carter said. "We've got to rebound the ball better.

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"It's different. You get to play in passing lanes. Teams throw a lot of lob passes and shoot a lot of jump shots over it. We close out and have high-ball pressure."

Huggins said the defense also allowed WVU to sort of hide Carter and Daxter Miles Jr. in the second half once both players had been whistled for their fourth foul.

Foul trouble

Out of 351 teams ranked by the NCAA, only 41 are being whistled for more fouls per game than the Mountaineers, who are averaging 21.2 fouls per game.

Against Pitt, both Carter and Miles had been charged with their fourth foul by the 11:24 mark of the second half.

They were on the bench for only a few minutes when Huggins summoned both to get back in the game.

"It was kind of tough," Miles said about playing with four fouls. "I had to make a few adjustments."

Carter said he didn't think about his foul trouble while on the court.

"If I'm on the court, I'm going to play like I have no fouls," he said. "It doesn't really matter how many fouls I have."

This article is written by Justin Jackson from The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.