MORGANTOWN – As we sat down at the laptop this morning, there was every intention to write that Bob Huggins and his West Virginia University men’s basketball team caused much disappointment with a 32 loss towards the end of last season for Syracuse in the NCAA tournament there was also a lot to like.
It was a top 10 team for part of the year, but every time we tried to spell the phrase “good team” it came out “goo team” and we couldn’t figure out why.
Then it hit us like lightning from heaven.
WVU would have been a “good team” but they didn’t have a D as in defense.
As much as we wanted to positively evaluate the fact that of the 10 defeats the climbers had suffered, nine were five or less, and all of the losses came from teams that made it to the NCAA tournament.
That would surely mean that it is a “goo team” … let’s go again.
The problem was that good teams don’t lose that many close games over the course of a season. They find a way to win, and if they do, the solution is not to get more points, but instead to get important stops as the game progresses, which WVU could never do as the season progresses.
Looking ahead to the WVU season, a year shortened not only by an early exit from the NCAA tournament but also by the complications that COVID-19 brought with the planning and execution of all games, we asked found that the climbers gave up 80 or more points eight times. and they only won three of those eight games.
It’s so “UnHugginslike”.
Now it’s true that the game of basketball has changed dramatically in his 14 years at WVU, but you know, Huggins’ top five teams scored 80 or more points eight times – all together!
In his second team at the WVU, the mountaineers never collected 80 points in a game and only gave up more than 70 points in a game eight times.
But this year’s team, not being blessed by a shot blocker to protect the rim, allowed players for players to drive to the basket for easy shots. It got to the point that if a team needed a basket they could get it either via a straight line drive to the hoop or through the back door left open by the defense.
This year’s team has never developed a defensive identity despite the presence of one of the best defenders Huggins has ever coached at Gabe Osabuohien.
While Osabuohien wasn’t a factor offensively, he went man to man, distracting passports, taking responsibility, diving for loose balls and ricocheting. He wasn’t actually a “Press Virginia” player, nor was he a “Zone” player or a “Man” player, but a combination of all three and in some ways he was as valuable to the team as Miles was McBride.
That’s why it was so important this week for him to announce that he would take advantage of the extra year the NCAA gives players and return to school.
He gives Huggins a defensive stake to build around. Someone who is able to build up the kind of defensive fire that Huggins likes to pierce in his defense.
“It’s hard for most people to appreciate everything he’s doing,” said Huggins. “It keeps balls alive for us and stops them from entering. We’ve had a tough time staying in front of our husband all year and Gabe really does a great job stopping the intrusion. It is the key to our defense and our last resort. Without him, we’re not nearly as good as a basketball team. “
In a social media feature called “Life as a Mountaineer,” Osabuohien explained what drives him last year.
“My motivation comes from where I come from because I wasn’t given everything when I was young,” said the Arkansas transfer. “Just having this opportunity and cheering the whole mountaineering nation for me is something I can’t imagine growing up.”
Osabuohien grew up in Toronto, Canada, and it was during this time that he was moving through his formative years. Most Canadians were into hockey, not basketball.
“Now I would say that in the last few years there has been a transition to basketball. More and more people are leaving Canada and attending prep schools to prepare for the NCAA. We didn’t have that when I was growing up. “
As a result, his game is still rudimentary in terms of the basics, especially on the more precise offensive side of the ball.
Defense is more “wanting” than attacking what is more “can”.
“I saw that I had to play defense if I wanted time on the pitch, so I stuck with it and did the little things that no one else wanted to do,” said Osabuohien.
Osabuohien was inspired by an impression in basketball that Canadians were soft, a fun impression for a country where hockey is the national game but the American basketball game is seen as more physical than the game in Canada.
“I feel like a lot of Canadian kids take this personally and feel like they have to come and prove themselves to show that they are just like Americans,” Osabuohien said. “I feel like a tough guy.”
“It means a lot. Most people don’t even make it out of Canada and I have to go to another country to make a name for myself and have the whole stadium cheer me on for playing hard. I think I have them Made proud in Canada, ”he said.
Now he’s hoping to continue that after being deprived of postseason play in his freshman year at WVU when tournaments were canceled due to the pandemic and early exit this year.
“First of all, I lost my senior night,” said Osabuohien. “I can’t go out like this.”
And then there was this loss to Syracuse.
“Just like how we lost the tournament,” he said. “It’s an unfinished business.”
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