We’ve covered the strong stretches and the promising play West Virginia exhibited in its victorious two-game road swing. True, an 11-point lead became a two-point deficit Monday, but the Mountaineers didn’t quickly choke away that lead. It was taken away over a prolonged period as they made 9 of 15 shots and committed just one turnover. They weren’t bad. Texas Tech was just a little better, and ultimately not good enough.
So we saw the Mountaineers doing things better and generally looking more organized despite some issues with illness (Eron Harris against TCU, Remi Dibo against Texas Tech) and little injuries (Nate Adrian doesn’t look like a guy with two good ankles).
But those are among the improvements and innovations that happen when a team has only two games and a lot of practice in 15 days before the start of conference play.
One such innovation? Devin Williams and Brandon Watkins playing together.
Never before had they played together as frequently or for as long as they did against Texas Tech. They played seven stretches together for a combined 15 minutes, 16 seconds. Individually, they both played well, Williams all the way back from the bad back that bothered him against William & Mary, Watkins playing his best game since his breakthrough against Marshall.
But as a pair? This was something else. The Mountaineers rebounded far better with those two together, which tickled Bob Huggins to the point he actually played a 2-3 zone that usually gives a team rebounding problems because the defenders don’t have a man to guard. The Williams-Watkins made for a long zone and their size and reach made for better rebounding.
You even saw them complement one another in the ways one might hope for now and come to expect later and, more importantly, submit a plus-four scoring margin in a game WVU would win by three points.
“They can do a lot for us, especially on the defensive end because they give us a lot of rebounding,” point guard Juwan Staten said. “And Brandon gives us something inside we don’t have, which is somebody who changes shots at the rim. He’s great in there for us.”
True, Dibo was ill and Kevin Noreen wasn’t himself on a night he needed to play big, so maybe this was necessity, but maybe it was an invention, too.