For the first time in his college basketball career, Trae Young had a bad game.
And it was Press Virginia that figured out how to make that happen.
The No. 6 Mountaineers got 17 points, 10 assists and seven boards from Jevon Carter and 20 points from Teddy Allen as they spent 40 minutes flustering and frustrating college basketball’s must-see TV attraction, taking a 89-76 win over No. 7 Oklahoma to the bank. Sagana Konate added 16 points, 13 boards and five blocks.
Young finished with 29 points and five assists, but it was far from his most efficient game. The dynamic freshman turned the ball over eight times. He shot just 8-for-22 from the floor. He missed free throws. He failed to finish layups he typically makes.
It was, quite frankly, exactly what we all expected to see happen heading into Morgantown.
We’ll get into that, and more, as we discuss the three things we learned from this game:
1. WEST VIRGINIA PROVIDED A BLUEPRINT FOR HOW TO SLOW DOWN TRAE YOUNG, BUT CAN ANYONE REPLICATE IT?
The Mountaineer game-plan was so simple: Do everything they possibly can to make life miserable for Trae Young. They double-teamed him after made shots and then face-guarded him as soon as they ball was inbounded to someone else. They harassed him when he did get his hands on the ball, rotating defenders on him and daring officials to call a foul on every possession. If the referees did, it didn’t matter. West Virginia has more than enough bodies: Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles, James Bolden. Hell, even 6-foot-7 Lamont West had a few possessions guarding Young.
That was frustrating enough for Young, but the gamesmenship didn’t end when the whistle blew. West Virginia did everything they could to get into his head. An extra bump here, a little shove there, holding onto his arm after the play was blown dead, standing in Young’s way as he tried to walk to his bench or his teammates.
Young was demonstrably and visibly frustrated for much of the game. You could see it in his body language. You could see it in the conversations that he had with referees during deadballs. Hell, you could see it in the way he reacted to every missed layup and missed free throw.
Young still finished with 29 points and five assists, but he was 8-for-22 from the floor with eight turnovers. It was far from his best game, but it’s something that he is going to have to mentally prepare himself for.
Because this isn’t going to stop.
West Virginia provided the blueprint for how to slow him down, but I’m not convinced that the rest of the conference – save for Texas Tech – can do what the Mountaineers did as well as the Mountaineers did. Bob Huggins recruits players specifically for this system and those players then spend years developing within that system. You don’t learn to do what West Virginia did with two practices in the middle of conference plays.
But that sure won’t stop teams from trying, which is why …
2. … OKLAHOMA’S SUPPORTING CAST NEEDS TO PROVIDE MORE SUPPORT
West Virginia was more than happy to essentially play 4-on-4 in the half court on Saturday night because they knew that the likes of Brady Manek, Christian James and Kameron McGusty are made so much better by what Young can set up for them. For me, the question that will determine Oklahoma’s ceiling this season is going to be how the rest of this team reacts to these situations.
Can the Sooners not named Young make defenses pay for selling out to stop their star point guard?
3. TEDDY BUCKETS CHANGES THINGS FOR WEST VIRGINIA, AS WILL ESA AHMAD
As basketball continues to embrace the use of analytics and efficiency metrics, the three-ball is becoming more and more relevant. Between the spacing that shooting provides and the simple fact that shooting threes at 34 percent is more efficient than shooting 50 percent from three, we’re never going to see this go the other way.
Unless, of course, you are a pressing team.
The logic is pretty basic. Pressing teams are at their most effective when the ball goes through the basket, when they can set up their defense after a made shot. That’s how they build momentum. That’s how they wear opponents down. And, as a result, it becomes more important for West Virginia to shoot the highest percentage that they can as opposed to shooting the most efficient shot that they can. Put another way, it’s better for West Virginia to make 50 percent of their twos than it is 34 percent of their threes because they can get into their press on 16 percent more of their possessions.
Enter Teddy Allen, whose is known as Teddy Buckets. A freshman forward that comes off the bench for the Mountaineers, Allen had 20 points on 9-for-11 shooting. He had 22 points at Kansas State on Monday night. He finished with 15 points in the Big 12 opener at Oklahoma State. Combine Teddy Buckets with the looming return of Esa Ahmad, West Virginia’s second-leading scorer last season and their best interior scorer, and suddenly the Mountaineers are a team that are much more balanced on the offensive end of the floor.
And they’re already a top ten team that may be the best in the Big 12.