Connecticut and WVU enter tomorrow night’s 7 o’clock game at the Coliseum tied for seventh in the Big East and vying for — and certainly not guaranteed — a one-round bye in next week’s Big East Tournament. These are two teams that can struggle on offense and the Huskies, even with Kemba Walker, hit ruts that can be easily diagnosed.
How UConn plays against zone defenses has become a storyline and sometimes an explanation of defeats. Well, here comes WVU, a team that for most of the season has not kept the opponent’s guards out of the lane, which would be a bright red flag against Walker tomorrow. Yet the Mountaineers, who Sunday had some issues keeping Rutgers’ Mike Coburn out of the painted area, just dusted off their 1-3-1 zone that is designed to keep the ball out of the middle and give the perimeter shooters odd and distracting angles against defenders.
The result? In three key possessions, Rutgers was 0-for-5 and missed three 3-pointers, two of which were very good looks at the basket. The Mountaineers scored five points on the other end and extended to an eight-point lead with less than a minute left in the game.
“It just throws teams off and messes up their whole mindset,” Thoroughman said. “It takes teams out of their rhythm, as much as anything else. They still got two good looks, but they’re not ready and those aren’t the shots they get in their offense.”
Bob Huggins said he called for the 1-3-1 to force Rutgers to run some clock and it wasn’t very exotic. Certainly, not at all like what the Mountaineers have played in the past. The Scarlet Knights got shots early in the offense and they were even good shots. Apart from the first two 3s, Rutgers had a layup and a tip-in that wouldn’t go. All in all, the Mountaineers weren’t all that happy with the execution of the plan and said they “got lucky” Rutgers missed its shots.
Still, timing is everything in basketball, especially in March. The Huskies are No. 14 in the 16-team conference in field-goal percentage and No. 7 in 3-point percentage. Nobody in the Big East guards the 3-point line better than WVU.
The Mountaineers do play a 2-3 matchup and UConn can have trouble with that, but here we are, first game of March, and the game before WVU plays host to a team that has issues against a zone, WVU revisits a 1-3-1 for the first time in a long time. The Huskies, who have played WVU and the 1-3-1 for years now, have to consider it in their preparations. Will the Mountaineers?