What does a whack-a-mole have to do with the West Virginia basketball team?
Well, actually quite a bit according to head coach Bob Huggins after being asked about trying to correct issues with a relatively inexperienced team and dealing with new issues after correcting the old ones.
So in a perfectly Huggins way, he compared it to the popular fair game.
“They just keep popping up and you knock them down and they pop up somewhere else,” Huggins said. “That’s what I feel like.”
And despite a six-game winning streak without the services of suspended forward Esa Ahmad, the Mountaineers have plenty of issues that still need ironed out. On the defensive end, West Virginia hasn’t blocked out consistently or rotated. Meanwhile, on the offensive end things have not been good from an execution standpoint even with the team scoring almost 88-points per game.
“We can shoot the ball, it’s our execution that has to get better,” Huggins said.
Some of those inconsistencies can simply be attributed to players not understanding what they need to do at this stage and that is something that comes with experience.
And that isn’t surprising considering that West Virginia now has to rely on some players they weren’t initially expecting to given the situation with Ahmad was well as the off-season departures and injuries.
The encouraging sign is that the players are putting in the effort to learn what they need to be doing.
For Huggins it comes back to what he has said time and time again that players have to focus on what they’re good at as opposed to going outside their comfort zone. The head man referenced the 2010 Final Four team and how he had the same speech with them throughout the early stages of the season.
Once they did, things turned around for the Mountaineers.
“Do what you can do to help your team,” Huggins said.
Huggins walked away encouraged by the effort that his team displayed in the comeback win over Missouri, as the Mountaineers were trailing by 16-points with less than eight minutes left. In that final stretch, the Mountaineers made rotations and did what they needed to do.
“They were starting to understand but what the carryover will be I don’t know,” he said.
Two players that aren’t in the unknown category are senior guards Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles, and both were the major catalysts in the comeback bid. And while Carter doesn’t have to shoulder the entire load on the offensive end, Huggins did say that he needs to work harder to get good shots.
And while there are still issues to work out, Huggins isn’t exactly sure when he will have the services of Ahmad back on the active roster. However, his understanding of what he needs to do should help him transition back onto the floor rather quickly whenever he does return outside of some expected conditioning issues.
On the issue of another big, Huggins believes that while sophomore Maciej Bender has been getting better, he still has to have more confidence on the floor and is simply playing with too much of a conscience right now because he is afraid to hurt his team. He has made shots in practice but that has to translate into games to help ease some of those issues.
“He just needs to have some success,” he said.
But in the meantime Huggins will have his mallet ready to knock down the next issue that pops up.