The Dominion Post  
 

Konate gives WVU more options on the inside

Created on:   Mon, Jan 8, 2018   11:36 PM

Last modified:   Mon, Jan 8, 2018   11:36 PM

The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — The strategy is no more complicated than simple math, and to be sure, WVU men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins is calculating when it comes time to stop a scoring run by the other team.

Huggins’ approach: Get the ball inside and get some shots close to the rim.

Former standouts like Kevin Jones and Devin Williams built a college career as the inside muscle that helped get the WVU offense going again.

As the No. 2-ranked Mountaineers (14-1, 3-0 Big 12) host Baylor (11-4, 1-2), at 7 p.m. on Jan. 9, they will do so with a core group of guys who have continued to improve and gain confidence throughout the season.

Part of that core is sophomore forward Sagaba Konate, who is developing into WVU’s next low-post threat with a twist.

“Sags was the real deal tonight,” WVU guard Daxter Miles Jr. said of Konate, following the Mountaineers’ 89-76 win against Oklahoma last Saturday. “What he did helped us big time. He was a big key for us.”

Konate finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots against the Sooners, with his points coming in a variety of ways, including an 18-foot jump shot away from the rim.

“It’s all confidence,” Konate said. “I’ve been working at it a lot.”

Working and listening, according to Huggins.

It wasn’t that long ago when Konate fashioned himself as a 3-point threat during practices and then would sometimes let his emotions get the better of him during games.

His inside presence at the start of the season was mainly just as a shot blocker.

No more.

“He’s listening better and he’s working at what we ask him to work at,” Huggins said. “You see him come out here and he’s not shooting threes anymore. He’s more focused now.”

A conversation between the two came after breaking down a film session with Huggins showing Konate spots on the floor where he could get an open shot.

And while the 6-foot-8, 260-pounder from Mali, Africa, has the ability to muscle his way for a hook shot on the inside, Konate has also developed a soft jump shot from the outside, too.

“I told him he was going to get a lot of shots at the foul line, because of the way teams played us in the past,” Huggins explained. “It’s smart basketball to drop off him, if you don’t think he can make that shot. Teams with great rim protectors are going to drop back and make us beat them with jump shots.

“Sags responded and made some shots.”

And he continues to be a rim protector. Konate is second in the Big 12, averaging 2.9 blocks per game.

He’s on pace to become just the second WVU player to finish with 100 blocks in one season.

“Especially last game, Sags showed everything he can be,” WVU forward Teddy Allen said. “He can do a little bit of everything for us as a center. He can score the ball and rebound it.

“We really rely on him to portect the rim for us. When he plays like he did on Saturday, there really is no ceiling for him on what he can do.”

NOTES

The Jan. 9 game is a sell-out, according to the WVU Ticket Office, which also announced the games against Kentucky (Jan. 27) and Iowa State (Feb. 24) are also sold out.

Tickets still remain for games against Kansas (Jan. 15), TCU (Feb.12) and Texas Tech (Feb. 26).

Allen was named the Big 12’s Newcomer of the Week on Jan. 8, after the freshman averaged 21.0 points off the bench in WVU’s wins against Kansas State and Oklahoma.

Allen shot 73.9 percent from the field in those games. he is averaging 9.7 points per game this season.