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Smothering half-court defense clutch for WVU

After a disappointing 2018-19 season, the West Virginia University basketball team has bounced back and has nearly surpassed its total win total of last season (15) with a 14-2 record.

Several new faces and maturation of a few others along with a top-notch defense has led to the Mountaineers success.

WVU has received praise from several national media analysts for its half-court defense this season.

The Mountaineers are second in the Big 12 and ninth in the nation in scoring defense (59.3 points). According to Ken Pom, they are first in adjusted defense efficiency (82.6).

WVU is second in the country in 3-point field goals allowed (23.8 percent) and second in field goals allowed (35 percent). They are second in true shooting percentage (44.5).

Part of the Mountaineers defensive success comes because of newcomer Gabe Osabuohien, who has been a tremendous asset on the defensive side of the ball. He has 80 deflections and 12 charges to go with 17 steals and four blocks. 

Big men Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe also fuel WVU’s defense keeping opponents from scoring down low.

“The way DC and Oscar move when they guard a guard, it’s amazing to see that too and there definitely gifted and it shows,” Osabuohien said.

The duo are the top two scorers on the team and the two best rebounders in the Big 12. They are averaging a combined 19 rebounds per game, including 12 on the defensive end. 

Having a deep bench has allowed the Mountaineers to stay fresh on the court. 

“We’ve built ourselves on it (defense) and the ability for us to play 12 guys, we’re deep,” Osabuohien said. “Everybody can come out and give you something every night, it’s a good thing. We just need to get better as a team, cut down the turnovers and lock in more defensively, take better shots and we can be a great team.”

However, players and head coach Bob Huggins know there is always room for improvement.

“I still think we got a ways to go,” Huggins said. “We screwed up some switches. We gave them too many open looks. I thought we did a better job the game before [against Texas Tech] of challenging shots. There were times when we did a great job, but it wasn’t as consistent, I didn’t think it happened.”

If WVU continues to improve defensively and mix in some offense, the Mountaineers could make a run down the stretch and into the post season.

Shanna Rose
WVU Graduate with a bachelor's in journalism and multimedia journalist. Sports Fan and sports writer. Former WVU News reporter. Contact Shanna on Twitter @SMR1837
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