Pressure presenting problems for West Virginia opposition

Bob Huggins isn’t interested in writing a book, he just wants to win basketball games.

That’s been proven over the years with how he has continued to adjust the style of play with his West Virginia basketball teams to match the personnel available.

This team is equipped with a pair of point guards that thrive with pressure and that has squeezed the first two opponents into plenty of mistakes.

Over two games, the Mountaineers have forced a total of 57 turnovers with a total of 25 of those coming from the opposing point guards.

That’s especially impressive when you consider Oakland point guard Jalen Moore led the country in assists a season ago but had 13 turnovers compared to only 4 assists in the opener.

Seniors Kedrian Johnson and Malik Curry have had a lot to do with that playing with relentless ball pressure and speeding up the opposition into mistakes with their physical brand of play.

“Our point guards are pests. If you have point guard and a backup point guard that can speed up the opposing team’s point guard every single play you get them out of control,” senior guard Taz Sherman said. “You run them into Gabe (Osabuohien) or run them into our shot blockers.”

It’s nothing new for either guard as it’s something they show every day in practice and has proven problematic for teams going up against the Mountaineers in the early stages of the season. It’s part of the formula for Huggins this season as his club isn’t big enough inside to play a slow-down, grind-it-out game and instead are attempting to get them to play fast and force them into defense.

There is length, speed and physicality with those two as well as with the third point guard Kobe Johnson and it is helping to cover up some of the deficiencies in other areas on the floor.

“This is an everyday thing, literally every practice. Ninety-four feet, me and Kedrian every day in practice, Kobe too. It’s just another day in the office,” said Curry. “That’s what we do, that’s what we’ve got to do, that’s our job, at the end of the day we have to apply pressure on the defensive end.”

Both players are quickly making a name for themselves on that end of the floor and providing a spark at the position which had a major hole to fill with the departure of Deuce McBride. It’s a cumulative effect, as each bring a high level of intensity throughout the game that creates problems.

By frustrating opposing ball-handlers, the Mountaineers are effectively taking them out of their offensive sets and making them play the game at their pace.

“How would you like one of those little guys to go out and another comes in after him? I think they really wear on people,” Huggins said. “Think about it, a pretty good point guard today and a really good point guard Tuesday and they both turned it over at an alarming rate.”

The number of deflections, steals and blocks generated by the pressure is helping to overshadow some of the problems that the Mountaineers are experiencing when it comes to rebounding the ball. It’s the formula in the early going and one that is giving this team a spark.

“We’re going to try. The object of defense is to disrupt the offense and if they can disrupt the offense then they’re going to play more,” Huggins said.


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