MORGANTOWN - Eventually, West Virginia is going to begin shooting the ball better than has been the norm through the first seven games of the season.Bob Huggins knows that. Or at least he continues to say it."We just have to keep shooting the ball,'' Huggins said.The Mountaineers (4-3) get another chance to prove they can make baskets at significantly more than a one-in-three rate tonight when they face Duquesne (5-4) in Pittsburgh. The 7 p.m. game from the Consol Energy Center will be televised by CBS College Sports.
West Virginia has, at times, been able to overcome its shooting inaccuracy. The Mountaineers carry a three-game win streak into tonight's game, despite shooting less than 40 percent twice. In seven games, WVU is shooting just 39.8 percent from the floor, which ranks No. 292 out of 346 Division I teams.From the 3-point line, the Mountaineers are even worse. Their 27 percent success rate is No. 318 in the country. In only one game this season (a rout of Marist) has WVU shot better than 50 percent as a team. In only one other (another rout, over Virginia Military) have the Mountaineers made better than 40 percent of their shots.Huggins said it's not from a lack of practice.
"We've shot the ball a bunch in practice,'' Huggins said Monday. "Some of the guys that are struggling to make a shot have shot it very well in practice.''In games, though, not so much. In a 68-67 win over Virginia Tech on Saturday, only three players made more than half their shots. That Kevin Noreen, Aaric Murray and Eron Harris combined to go 15-for-25 and make six 3-pointers saved the Mountaineers. The rest of the team was a combined 9-for-43, or 20.9 percent.In seven games, only those three are shooting better than 50 percent - Murray 54.4, Harris 53.8 and Noreen 53.3. Deniz Kilicli is shooting 41.5 percent despite seldom wandering out of the paint. Gary Browne is shooting 86.2 percent from the foul line, but just 30 percent from the floor and 20 percent on 3-pointers.One player who might be able to help is transfer guard Matt Humphrey, but he's played sparingly or not at all the last four games, in part because of a shoulder injury. Keaton Miles and freshman Terry Henderson have played in his spot and played well at times, but neither is lighting it up shooting.
"It's a combination of things,'' Huggins said of Humphrey's absence of late. "I think the shoulder certainly has had something to do with it. And then, quite honestly, Keaton's played pretty well. Keaton's played well and Terry Henderson's played well. You've only got so many minutes.''Anyone, though, who proves he can step in and shoot the ball will get more of those minutes. At this point, Huggins is open to anyone doing it."We've just got to continue to shoot the ball. They're going to start going in and then we'll get some confidence and we'll be fine,'' Huggins said. "I think everybody goes through this at some point during the season. It's just very rare that you go through it at the beginning of the season like we are.''BRIEFLY: Murray was named the Big 12 men's basketball rookie of the week on Monday. The center averaged 11 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in a 2-0 week for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia and Duquesne did not play last season for the first time in 38 years. This is the 87th game between the teams in a series dating back to 1915. WVU leads it 50-36.
Much has changed for the Dukes since they fired coach Ron Everhart, who is now a West Virginia assistant. Three of Duquesne's top four scorers are freshmen - guards Derrick Colter (10.4) and Jeremiah Jones (7.3) and reserve forward Quevyn Winters (9.7). The leading scorer is 6-1 guard Sean Johnson (12.9).The Dukes have a 7-footer who plays about 11 minutes a game, 7-2, 295-pound junior Martins Abele, a Latvian who transferred last year from Radford. He's averaging 4.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and shooting 70.8 percent for a team that doesn't shoot much better (41.2 percent) than West Virginia.Huggins did not play 6-10 sophomore Volodymyr Gerun Saturday against Virginia Tech. That was the first game he was eligible after serving a six-game NCAA suspension.
"Voldy's just got to learn enough,'' Huggins said. "We're hoping to get him in some games here where he can start to learn. We've been spending a lot more time with him in practice. But it's a lot to learn in a very short period of time, particularly when you can't focus on him.''Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1