The West Virginia University men’s basketball team is officially in the middle of its first losing streak this season.
After Wednesday’s loss to No. 3 Kansas in Morgantown, the Mountaineers appear to be a team trending in the wrong direction as March approaches.
One of West Virginia’s many current problems has been point guard play. In fact, it isn’t really a new problem — just one that was not near the top of concerns of Huggins and his staff. Now, after dropping consecutive games and three of their last four, the issues at point have become more prominent.
Sophomore Jordan McCabe has been the starter throughout most of the season, with freshman Miles “Deuce” McBride and sophomore Brandon Knapper eating up the bulk of the remaining minutes at point guard. Against KU on Wednesday, those three combined for eight turnovers and zero assists.
Huggins said that is a product of inexperience.
“I mean, they haven’t played, man,” Huggins said. “Jordan played a little bit at the end of last year. Knap played a little bit at the end (of last season), but Knap’s not really a point guard. Knap is more of a scoring kind of guy. Deuce really wasn’t a point guard (in high school). We’re inexperienced.”
West Virginia is certainly inexperienced at point guard, but inexperience among the Mountaineers is not exclusive to the position. Remember, this is a WVU team with just three seniors — one of which has only been on campus for two seasons — and is mostly made up of sophomores, freshman and junior college transfers.
“We have an average of 1.2 years of experience on our team, which is a whole lot lower when you take into account that (senior forward) Logan (Routt) really doesn’t play,” Huggins said. “(Senior guard) Chase (Harler) doesn’t play a whole lot of minutes. (Senior) Jermaine (Haley) doesn’t play a whole lot of minutes, so it’s probably less than that, really. That’s a fact. That’s not an excuse, it’s a fact.
“I would hope to think that as they mature and get better and go through the grind, I would hope that they would respond and get tougher, be more active, guard better, pass better,” he added. “They’re understanding. It’s like you try to run something and you have (sophomore forward) Derek (Culver) and Oscar (Tshiebwe) screening for each other. Well, they are just going to switch because they had (Kansas forward David) McCormack and (Udoka) Azubuike. What good does that do? You want to screen big to little, you don’t want to screen big to big. They just don’t know. As much as you tell them in practice, how much do they retain?”
‘Quick hands’ Garrett
Down the stretch, veteran Kansas guard Marcus Garrett took advantage of that inexperience with easy steals on three consecutive West Virginia possessions as the Mountaineers attempted to claw their way back into the lead. Two of those came against WVU point guards, while Garrett picked Tshiebwe for the third.
“I knew I wasn’t in foul trouble, so I was able to show off my quick hands and get my hands on a couple balls,” Garrett said.
Garrett was no stranger to turnovers on both ends Wednesday against West Virginia, accounting for five steals but also giving the ball back to WVU six times in the win.
“Who guards better than (Garrett) anywhere?” Kansas coach Bill Self asked. “He guarded one through five today. He took guys with game on the line. He got three steals in a row on three consecutive possessions. He’s unbelievable defensively and I really thought he controlled the game at the end.”