Here are two stats worth keeping a close eye on as West Virginia gets deeper into the 2013 basketball season – field goal percentage defense and points allowed.
If West Virginia’s opponents’ field goal percentage creeps above 44 percent and points allowed goes higher than 69.5 per game then the Mountaineers could very likely be staring at a losing season.
At least that has been the case the last five times West Virginia has failed to finish above .500 in 1995, 1996, 1999, 2002 and 2003 when the opponents’ field goal percentage was 44.2 percent or better, and its scoring average was 69.5 points per game or higher.
Heading into Wednesday night’s game against TCU, West Virginia (8-9) is hovering right around those two figures – opponents are shooting .433 percent and are averaging 66.9 points per game.
Most recently, the Mountaineers allowed a scattershot Purdue team to score 79 points in a disappointing 27-point road loss last Saturday afternoon in West Lafayette, Ind., on national TV.
“We’re giving up almost 44 percent field goal percentage and that’s not very good,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins during his Monday morning Big 12 coaches’ teleconference. “People are shooting 35 percent from 3. That’s never happened (with his teams). We’re just not very consistent defensively, and obviously we’re not very consistent offensively, but defense is something you ought to be consistent at.
“I think Purdue scored on 20 of 22 possessions in the second half, or something ridiculous like that. I would think that would be a cause to talk about defense.”
West Virginia’s offensive woes have been well documented. The Mountaineers are currently eighth in the Big 12 in scoring (67 ppg.), 10th in field goal percentage (.391), ninth in 3-point field goal percentage (.283) and eighth in scoring margin (+0.1). But where the greatest concern lies is in the deficiencies the Mountaineers are currently displaying on the defensive end of the floor – an area Huggins’ teams have always seemed to master.
West Virginia is currently eighth in the Big 12 in scoring defense, ninth in field goal percentage defense, ninth in rebounding defense (35.6), seventh in rebounding margin (+2.8) and is located in the middle of the pack in turnover margin (+1.8) at fifth.
West Virginia is also eighth in the Big 12 in assists per game (12.2) and is fifth in blocked shots (4.0) and steals (7.4). The only statistical category that can be considered exceptional is an old Huggins standby, offensive rebounding, where the Mountaineers lead the conference with an average of 15.2 per game.
“We find different ways to shoot ourselves in the foot,” the coach explained. “If we shoot it OK from the field we can’t make a foul shot. If we make foul shots we can’t shoot it from the field, but I’ve never had teams that didn’t guard – and we haven’t guarded very well.”
It has become quite clear that this is a young and inexperienced team that is still trying to find itself, and is doing so in a new conference against new personnel, new playing styles and different officiating styles. Add to that a much more rigorous travel schedule and it’s been quite a learning experience for everyone involved. Yet despite that, Huggins thought his team was well prepared and ready to go for last Saturday’s game against the Boilermakers.
“Thursday we didn’t go near as long and we didn’t go as hard because of the travel, but I thought we had a pretty good practice on Friday,” Huggins said. “We just didn’t play the way I am accustomed to seeing our guys play. We didn’t play defensively; we didn’t take anything away from people, we didn’t rebound the ball and we let them do the things that they’re good at doing, which normally we try to take those things away.”
Huggins said he had similar feelings going into the games against Kansas State and Iowa State, both close losses that came down to the final possession.
“We felt pretty good about the Kansas State game going into it and I thought we did a pretty good job defensively, but we just didn’t make a basket when we needed to make a basket,” he said. “We didn’t execute the last inbounds play very well and they got a hand on it and kind of forced us into a scramble situation.
“The Iowa State game we didn’t get a stop when we needed to get a stop, but we held them to one of their lowest offensive outputs of the year. We just haven’t been very consistent.”
Huggins conceded that his team’s offensive difficulties may be creeping into other areas as well. Perhaps some of the guys are thinking too much about their shot and not enough about guarding their man after missing their shot?
“When you score you have more energy,” said Huggins. “We start (the Purdue) game and we miss a layup. We get a clear out and miss a layup and then I think we turned it over two or three of the next four possessions – and not just turn it over but turnovers that led to baskets.
“The hope is when you do those things you play so much harder to try and get a stop to get the ball back and to get yourself back into the game. Obviously that didn’t happen.”
Hopefully it starts on Wednesday night when the Horned Frogs come to town for a 7:30 p.m. game that will be televised nationally on ESPN2. In the meantime, keep your eyes focused on field goal percentage defense and opponents’ scoring average because those two stats will likely tell the tale of the 2013 season.Check out Antonik's new book The Backyard Brawl: Stories from One of the Weirdest, Wildest, Longest Running, and Most Intense Rivalries in College Football History now available in bookstores. A portion of the sales benefit the WVU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Also, be sure to "Like" the new Backyard Brawl Facebook page and tell us your personal WVU-Pitt story.