MORGANTOWN — Sometimes college basketball games flow as sweetly and clearly as a mountain stream in West Virginia.
They are as ugly and toxic as some of our pollution-laced waterways.
West Virginia University’s 66-54 victory over Texas Tech here Saturday before 14,111 fans in the Coliseum fell into the latter category.
It was hard to drink in at times.
That was particularly true in the second half, when the Red Raiders made only 9 of 38 field goal attempts (23.7 percent), including just 2 of 17 3-point tries (11.8 percent).
Besides that, Texas Tech was whistled for 14 fouls in the second half alone.
Ugly, ugly, ugly.
Yet, a swan still is hiding in there.
It’s called defense. Not the defense Mountaineer fans grew to love and boast about, perhaps, but stifling, suffocating defense just the same.
No, it’s not “Press Virginia.”
That may never come this way again.
But it’s half as good. That’s because it’s a half-court trapping defense that is swallowing shooters alive and spitting out their self-confidence as if it were sour milk.
Just look at the chaos this “half-court havoc” wreaked on the Red Raiders. Flashy true freshman guard Jahmi’us Ramsey entered the game with a 17.7-point average and a lot of rave reviews.
He left with eight points in 33 minutes, thanks to 3 for 14 shooting from the floor, including an ugly 1-for-5 performance from behind the 3-point line.
Ramsey wasn’t a factor. Why? Because WVU didn’t allow him to be one.
In fact, Texas Tech’s only double-figure scorer was Davide Moretti with 16 points. Considering the Red Raiders played in the NCAA National Championship game last season, that’s not very impressive.
But that’s because the Mountaineers’ half-court defense IS that impressive. It’s also that contagious.
“We want to play defense on this team,” said true freshman guard Miles “Deuce” McBride, who scored a game-high 22 points. “You want to get stops. To go deep into the tournament, that’s what it comes down to — everybody has to play defense.”
So, what is the key to this suffocating half-court defense?
“It’s moving on to the next play,” said McBride. “In the first half, we gave up a couple of back-doors and a couple of open shots where guys know shooters can’t get open shots, but I think consistency wins out.
“If you’re able to get the stops and stay on the guy, he’s just going to wear down overall. I think that’s what we did. We know we are a deep team and if guys can come in and step up and just play hard defense, it’s just going to wear another team out.”
The proof was in the second half. The Mountaineers’ defense made Texas Tech look bad. It made the Red Raiders look ugly.
“That’s our key focus,” said sophomore guard Brandon Knapper, who scored 10 points. “Just take them out of their offense. Keep the ball in one guy’s hands and make him dribble. If they move the ball, if they pass the ball — that’s bad on our defense.
“That is what we focus on. We try to limit dribble penetration, and once we do that, they won’t be able to find shooters. That’s what we are going to focus on all year.”
When WVU makes a team look ugly it’s a compliment to the Mountaineers’ defense.
“Yeah, it is” said Knapper. “You know Huggs, he loves defense.”
Right now, the cup is half full.