Finishing around the basket — simple right? For West Virginia, they are proving how difficult the simplest of plays can be.
Since the birth of basketball, coaches have preached to get as many “high-percentage looks” as possible. Those looks come from being close to the basket, or laying the ball up. Over West Virginia’s first five conference games, the Mountaineers have missed 55% of their attempted layups. On Tuesday against Baylor the Mountaineers missed 15 layups and then went on to lose 77-68.
Between 11:34 and 10:07 to go in the second half against Baylor, the Mountaineers were down only two points. In a span of 1:27, the Mountaineers missed a combined seven layups, while getting six offensive rebounds, letting Baylor keep their lead. Those misses would prove to be costly, as the Mountaineers would end up only getting points on two of those possessions.
After the game, head coach Bob Huggins did not hold back, saying it frustrates him the amount of close range baskets his team is missing.
We hurt ourselves,” Huggins said. “We continue to stub our toe when you miss an enormous amount of one-footers, two-footers and it’s not like they had a great shot blocker. And this has been a habitual problem.
“We hurt ourselves. We continually stub our toe when you miss an enormous amount of one-footers, two-footers around the rim and it’s not like they had a great shot blocker,” Huggins said. “This has been a habitual problem.”
Sean McNeil who finished with 17 points in the loss to Baylor and who was responsible for one of those missed layups in the second half said you have to be able to fix missing close-range shots.
That’s something that we’ve got to fix. We can’t miss bunnies right there around the rim,” McNeil said. “Those are buckets you need.”
Huggins went back to his Cincinnati days, talking about Danny Fortson. Fortson, a 6-foot-7 forward who played at Cincinnati from 1994-1997 averaged 18.8 points in his career. Fortson continued to miss layups, and Huggins would continually give him the same advice. “[Fortson] was kind of crossing it. He was hitting it between the rim and the backboard, and I kept trying to say you need to get your head up. You got to look where you are shooting the ball man. Get your head up. Get your head on the rim. Get your head on the rim. See the rim.”
Huggins said he then took matters into his own hands, trying to go against Fortson, but Fortson would push Huggins around. “
Then, I had a pad down there. I was fairly young then, and he just knocked me all over the place.” Huggins’ solution: getting three tackles from the football team and have them cause as much havoc to Fortson as possible, until he would figure out his way towards making a layup.
“So, I went and got a football tackle, and he said can I bring in a couple of other guys and said
yeah. So, Danny had three of our football tackles. I don’t know if they were defensive or offensive tackles, but they were big dudes. He did it every day. He did it every day before practice. He got those guys in there and I mean they hit him, and it got to where they were like ‘Coach, he’s killing us. We can’t do anything with him.’”
The point of this Huggins said is in order to get better at making layups, shooting free throws, dribbling, you have to work on it. “You’re not going to be good at anything if you don’t practice your craft then you’re not going to be good at it. Whatever it is. It doesn’t matter what it is,” Huggins said.
Over the next month and a half, if West Virginia continues to miss 55% of their layups, it is going to be a recipe for disaster. The Mountaineers lost to No. 5 Baylor by nine points. Make four more layups and it is a one points game, make five of those 15 missed layups and you give yourself a chance to win.
Photo by Dale Sparks, All Pro Photography