West Virginia basketball: ‘Press Virginia’ Will be in Full Force


CLEVELAND, OH — Just because West Virginia is taking on the No. 1 overall seed Kentucky, who hasn’t lost a game all season, it doesn’t mean head coach Bob Huggins will shy away from what’s work for his Mountaineers.

Pressure, pressure and more pressure. That’s what West Virginia has done this season. The Mountaineers’, scrappy, in your face, tenacious defense has catapulted them into the Sweet 16 and the Wildcats will be next on the list to face “Press Virginia.”

The matchup isn’t ideal for West Virginia, though. Kentucky has tremendous size, which has given the Mountaineers problems in previous games. Teams such as Baylor and Iowa State took advantage of the high risk, high reward that West Virginia’s press presents. Both teams swept the Mountaineers during the regular season.

Despite the height advantage, Juwan Staten says that conditioning factor of their defense will be what aids them tonight.

Mar 22, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Maryland Terrapins guard/forward Dez Wells (44) goes airborne after a collision with West Virginia Mountaineers guard Gary Browne (14) during the first half in the third round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

“I think it takes place in the second half,” said Staten. “In the first half everybody is, you know, everybody’s pumped up and they’re thinking that they’re breaking our press and having success, but they don’t realize that they using more energy than they probably used all season.”

“So in the second half when they have got to come out and try to do that same thing for 20 minutes and they don’t have their legs or they’re a little tired, then they start to have that effect on them and that’s when we try to get even more aggressive on defense.”

West Virginia takes great pride in the fact that they’re one of the best conditioned teams and are able to keep up constant pressure from tip-off, to the final buzzer. Forward Devin Williams believes that playing in a tough, completive conference like the Big 12 has helped them realize what it takes to go the full 60 minutes.

“I think playing in a conference we’re playing in has really prepared us,” said Williams. “We could be tired later, you know, when we’re done doing what we got to do. You know, it’s what we want, so I at the end of the day we aren’t tired, it’s go hard or go home.”

And that’s exactly what will happen if the press doesn’t work — West Virginia will go home and be added to the list of opponents conquered by the Wildcats.

The press, however, has flaws. The double team in the back court leaves someone open and often times the press can leave wide-open layups on the other end. With Kentucky’s size, it will be tough to pressure them and Huggins isn’t sure how he can match their size and prevent them from just throwing over the heads of his players.

“I don’t know, I don’t know what you do about that,” Huggins said. “I’ve thought about that, but I haven’t really come up with an answer.”

Gary Browne acknowledges that Kentucky’s guards have the size capable of breaking the press, but says that he’s seen this before, and the pressure will eventually catch up to the Wildcats.

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“I mean, everybody that we play, their guards, they can break the press — I mean at the beginning of the first half they might be making good decisions but then they don’t realize they don’t have enough depth on their bench and the second half is going to catch up,” said Browne.

“Sometime during the game we can see it. We get real excited when things like that happen. I feel like the whole bench, the whole team can realize that and that’s when we know, we go harder and more aggressive.”

From he pressure on the floor, to the pressure of going up against a powerhouse in Kentucky — the pressure will be on more ways than one for West Virginia in the Sweet 16.

The Mountaineers and Wildcats will tip-off at 10:45 p.m. from the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH. The game will broadcast live on CBS.

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