January 12, 2010
Welcome to Jay-Mail! Jay Jacobs stopped by Tuesday afternoon to take some of your questions about West Virginia basketball.
In addition to covering WVU men’s and women’s basketball for the Mountaineer Sports Network, Jacobs also writes Basketball Beat for MSNsportsNET.com.
Gordon Fuqua (Charleston, S.C.): Is Joe Mazzulla's injury the type that has not healed or will not heal as long as he uses it in a sport? Does his playing with this injury mean he will continue to have physical pain? Can he take a week or 10 days off to help heal?
Jay Jacobs: Good question, Gordon. I just left practice about a half hour ago before we head to Florida. Joe had his best practice yet with his left hand and was not only good off the dribble but he was able to get some shots up with his left hand from 10-12 feet. Then he went to the foul line where he has been shooting right-handed all year (poorly) and he made four out of five left-handed. To answer the second part of your question, time off would always help, but that isn’t likely until after the season.
Justin (Morgantown): Can we expect to see Dalton Pepper start to log some minutes and even maybe start down the stretch? He seems to be getting even better with the quality of the opponent.
Jay Jacobs: I think Dalton Pepper had earned more playing time with his practices. Huggs likes good work ethic in practice and although Dalton is a gunslinger, he’s a very dangerous player to guard. Huggs will increase his minutes, in my opinion, but I don’t see him starting this year.
Derek V (Buffalo, N.Y.): Jay, I have been watching the mountaineers all season long. We seem to have some problems with the 2-3 zone. It seems as though we are settling for low percentage shots. Why don't we attack the middle more and if nothing is there then kick out for the 3 point try?
Jay Jacobs: Derek, with the five-forward lineup there hasn’t been anybody to break down that zone off the dribble. The weakness in that zone is in the middle and on the wings. We have not attacked there very well because we haven’t been able to get the ball out of our point guard’s hands to our shooters quick enough in the weak areas of the zone. One other point, Joe Mazzulla and Truck on the floor together will help to get us into flattening the zone, which is what you want to do to get your shots.
Galen (Morgantown): Not many people have seen Kilicli play, but I've heard you talk highly of him. Do you think he will be a key contributor when his suspension ends against Pitt?
Jay Jacobs: Good question, Galen. Yes, I have been impressed with the Turk. However, I have been somewhat disappointed in his ability to rebound the basketball in practice. I think in order to contribute to this basketball team he will have to improve his defense and rebounding. He is a terrific offensive player and Huggs hopes to have him in basketball shape for the game against Pitt on February 3rd.
Charlie Epperly (Fairmont, WV): How much emphasis is placed on strength training for the women's basketball team? Watching players progress through the years, obviously the men's players become stronger and it shows on the court, whereas it seems the women's players don't become much stronger. The player I currently keep thinking back to is Natalie Burton. She struggles against the bigger players both in getting shots up under the basket and she generally doesn't have a physical advantage against other centers. I understand there are physical differences between men/women and training practices must be different at times, but I always wonder if there's much emphasis on getting our girls stronger as they grow in the program. Thanks Jay!
Jay Jacobs: Andy Kettler works with both programs and he is one of the best in the business. He looks at every player from a strength standpoint individually, male or female. You asked about Natalie Burton and her struggles against bigger players. Her improvement with Andy has been tremendous. She is one of his favorites with her work ethic. She is only a sophomore and will get better as she moves through her career at West Virginia University.
John DellaGiustina (Arizona): Jay, With their size and athleticism why doesn't the Mountaineers offense drive or work the ball to the basket more often to get a higher percentage shot and draw more fouls? It seems they take way too many 3 point shots and medium range jumpers at a relatively low percentage.
Jay Jacobs: West Virginia is an athletic team, you are correct in saying that. The way I would answer your question John is ball reversal. You must tilt the defense and then swing the basketball to the opposite side and that’s where you create the opportunities to attack the basket. We are not getting to the foul line because, so far this year, we have not been able to break down the defenses off the dribble to get ourselves to the rim for foul shots.
Varun Prasad (India): Hi Jay, How worried should I be after the loss to Notre Dame and seeing the Mountaineers struggle with shooting? We still have to play those strong Big East teams like 'Cuse; Nova & Pitt to name a few. We were dreamin' of a Final Four this season - can it still happen?
Jay Jacobs: I can answer your question very simply: every team in college basketball today has problems. The team that solves those problems the quickest puts the Final Four into play. Can it happen for West Virginia? Absolutely, but there are problems that still need to be solved and it starts at the defensive end.
Jack Landers (Biloxi, MS): Jay, As a displaced Mountaineer for many years here in Mississippi, Satellite TV and the Internet allows me to follow WVU basketball (and football) very well. My question for you is: What is your opinion on the effectiveness of the strategy to play for the last shot late in the half or end of the game. I understand the premise but It seems to seldom work. The team often refuses seemingly good shots only to end up taking a forced or poor one, i.e., as in the WVU-Notre Dame game. An earlier missed shot would have given them a chance at a rebounded seconded shot. Thanks. Jack Landers. P.S. You probably don't remember me, but we played on opposing teams in the 1956 WV High School basketball state championship game. You probably do remember we (East Bank and Jerry West) won.
Jay Jacobs: Hey Jack, good to hear from you. When I see Jerry I will be sure to tell him about our conversation online. I can’t get you out of my mind and that 1956 game at the Field House. I couldn’t get any shots against you Jack and that was 54 years ago. Jerry fouls out with 36 in the third quarter and if he plays the whole game, he probably gets 60. What great memories. As for your question, you are absolutely right, Jack. But it was a tale of two halves with Notre Dame. The first half was just a poor effort on West Virginia’s part. In the second half, we played much better and at the end of the game, our best scorer, Da’Sean Butler, had three looks in the final two minutes and couldn’t hit any of them. The moral of this one is give 100 percent effort for 40 minutes and West Virginia isn’t in the position you mention.
Craig Wilson (Bridgeport): Alex Ruoff was our shut down defender last year. He was big enough to guard most players and a good one-on-one defender. Who is that guy on this year's team?
Jay Jacobs: That’s a great question, Craig. Alex Ruoff was our shutdown defender. This year’s on-ball defender has been Joe Mazzulla. What happens is too many fouls have been called on our big guys picking up for the dribble-drives of our opponents. Alex did not let this occur and he always took the best offensive player on the other team. We’re still looking for that shut-down guy as of today, but we are getting better as a team, defensively.
Mark (Roanoke, Va.): Jay, Will we begin to see more high/low action to get the ball in the post to our bigs? Jones and Ebanks, et al., have a better chance of scoring it seems then so many outside heaves.
Jay Jacobs: This question is answered very simply. Devin Ebanks is a wonderful mid-range player. He has the ability with the long arms to get the ball over the defender down inside to the low post to Kevin Jones. The problem here is that defenses know it, too. Case in point, Notre Dame. They packed it back in with their defense, giving West Virginia open looks out on the perimeter where the Mountaineers took 37 shots from 3. Devin struggled in this game, thus the high-low wasn’t available and they could not get the ball down inside to KJ. If those shots from the outside start to go in, the defense comes out, creating more space for Kevin Jones in the low post. Let’s hope it happens tomorrow night in Tampa.
Hey guys, thanks for all of your great questions. I’ve got to run and catch the charter for Tampa. We’ll do it again soon.