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WVU Uses "Organized Chaos" on Defense

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MORGANTOWN -

Kevin Noreen calls it organized chaos.

The defense that held the nation's fourth-best scoring offense in check Monday night at the Coliseum was not necessarily something West Virginia has learned so well that it became effective. In fact, it may be something they still haven't learned at all.

"We don't know what we're doing," said WVU head coach Bob Huggins.

Those are not typically the words you want to hear from your head coach, but somehow, the Mountaineers have embraced this idea that their own lack of understanding can befuddle the opponent.

"They didn't really know what we were in because we don't really know what we were in," junior guard Juwan Staten said after crushing Iowa State 102-77. "We switch everything we can switch and we just have to guard as a team. We cut down on the mental mistakes today, cut down on the defensive mistakes and we played well."

The Mountaineers held Iowa State to seven points below its season average and made Melvin Ejim look pedestrian just two days after he was anything but. The league's leading scorer could not figure out how to penetrate through WVU's defense and he failed to knock down perimeter shots.

Freshman forward Nathan Adrian played was Huggins called his best game of the season and the players were able to trust in each other that their four teammates on the court were all in position in the half court sets.

"It's just a good feeling. Someone's got your back," said Noreen. "I think back to last year and we didn't really have that. We couldn't trust that the help would always be there. Just the way we're playing defense now reminds me of my first year here. Joe Mazzulla's last year, Cam Thoroughman's last year – those guys could trust each other and their defense is what got them to the tournament. We feel like we can play that way as well, but we have a little more offense than I think they did."

True, Noreen's current Mountaineers average nearly 10 points per game more than what that group did back in 2010-11, but even with the increased scoring, WVU has proven without strong defense, it cannot always come out on top.

"We need to really lock down on defense because we feel like we can score with any team," said Staten. "The thing that separates them from us is them scoring on us. We felt like [Monday] we needed to come in and play great defense."

Huggins was clear following Monday's win that it was his team's best defensive performance of the year. He offers quite a convoluted explanation of this idea that WVU can keep its opponent guessing because of its own confusion on defense.

"When we were pretty good at doing it, we didn't know what we were doing," said Huggins. "We just did it pretty good, whatever it was we did."

The head coach points to Gary Browne's performance as an example of the Mountaineers growing on defense. Browne, as Huggins put it, was beginning to look like a dog chasing a ball on the court. Wherever it went, he would follow and ultimately, it left someone open.

The effort and the energy play was appreciated, but the end result wasn't always what he wanted. Now Browne is getting better at staying disciplined while still bringing the same intensity to his defensive game.

With a team so full of young players, it is even more important that Browne and the other veterans can give consistent performances.

"We're trying to have them play basketball, but we're trying to have them understand what the defense is doing and what counter they make," said Huggins. "I think that's the best way to play basketball if you can do it. I think their understanding is getting better, I really do."

The organized chaos has worked lately and it will need to continue as West Virginia looks ahead to its final six games of the regular season. 

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