Huggins says Jones has worked hard to improve offense
Published: Monday, February 21, 2011
Updated: Monday, February 21, 2011 22:02
Following the West Virginia men's basketball team's 72-58 victory over then-No. 8 Notre Dame on Saturday, point guards Truck Bryant and Joe Mazzulla stole the show.
Media members flocked to the two players after they combined for 40 points in the upset of the Fighting Irish.
Forward Kevin Jones, who recorded his fifth double-double in the win, sat quietly on his stool and spoke to the few media members who didn't surround Bryant and Mazzulla.
However, Jones' 14-point and 10-rebound performance didn't go unnoticed by his head coach.
"(Jones) has really put a lot of time in trying to figure out how to make some shots. He goes in and works," said WVU head coach Bob Huggins. "He is such a great kid, and he knows when he is not playing well."
It's no secret Jones has struggled to make shots this season.
While his scoring and rebounding numbers haven't dropped significantly this season, Jones has struggled to be as efficient as he was a year ago.
Last season, Jones shot 53 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc. This year, he's shooting 44 percent from the field and just 25 percent from the 3-point range.
The most significant slip has come from the free-throw line. His percentage from the charity stripe has dropped 11 percent from last season.
"I just had to go back to the drawing board with everything and start over," Jones said. "You have to be real positive and make sure everyone around you is positive."
With the falling percentages being held over him, the junior forward was fighting a battle in his mind.
"Shooting is more of a mental thing than anything else," Jones said. "If you haven't had a couple good games in a row, then you get in your mind that you are playing really bad."
The mental battle seemed to be getting the best of Jones, but it was a conversation with Bryant that may have set the wheels in motion for a return to last season's form.
"Truck and I were talking, and we said we had to step up in order for our team to be successful," Jones said. "You just want to play well, especially for your teammates and the fans, so I had to get into the gym and get into a regular shooting routine."
For Huggins, it was no surprise to see Jones in the gym working hard on getting back his shot rhythm.
Along with watching Jones try to regain his old form, Huggins threw in some of his usual motivational tricks.
"I told him what I told everyone else, working hard doesn't guarantee success, but you have a lot better chance," Huggins said. "You have to get in and shoot the ball."
With that being said, Jones knows he must continue to work in the gym as the Mountaineers close out the season with four of their toughest games. Three of their last four games – at Pittsburgh, at Rutgers, vs. Connecticut and vs. Louisville – in the regular season come against top-25 teams.
"We know it is going to be a tough stretch," Jones said. "These are going to be the biggest games of the season for us."