WVU shooting woes come from a lack of confidence, as players continue to pass up open looks

MORGANTOWN — If confidence was sold in a bottle, Josh Eilert would have already bought every single one and stuffed his players’ lockers with them.

That’s what the WVU men’s basketball coach sees when evaluating the Mountaineers’ shooting woes.

It’s not forced shots that have killed the Mountaineers (3-5), who host Drexel (5-4) at 4 p.m. Saturday inside the Coliseum.

Rather, it’s the open shots that WVU players haven’t taken, electing to pass the ball instead.

WVU STATS

“I don’t know how I can fix that with our guys,” Eilert began, before using an example of WVU guard Seth Wilson passing up an open 3-pointer. “I don’t yell that much, but I yelled at Seth. I was like, ‘Seth, you’ve got to take open shots. What are we doing? That’s what you’re out there to do.’”

Why are some players passing rather than shooting? In Eilert’s mind, it all comes down to confidence. WVU is lacking in that area, and it shows in the shooting numbers.

It’s not exactly news WVU is dead last in the Big 12 in shooting percentage (38.7%). The Mountaineers have shot better than 40% in just three of their first eight games.

What may surprise you is the Mountaineers would have to go a perfect 40 for 40 from the floor just to reach 13th place in the conference.

Yeah, it’s that bad.

Wilson has been slumping, shooting just 23.5% this season. Sophomore forward Josiah Harris (24.5%) is struggling also, going scoreless in games against Virginia and Bellarmine earlier this season. He was held to just one point in Wednesday’s loss against rival Pitt.

“It’s the same thing with Jo Jo standing in the corner,” Eilert said. “It’s too hard a game at this level to turn down open shots. When they’re there, you’ve got to shoot it with confidence.”

It’s visibly become a mental obstacle. Against St. John’s, Wilson’s 0 for 11 shooting night saw him get so frustrated at himself that he was quickly surrounded by supporting teammates once he was summoned to the sidelines.

And it’s become a focal point for Eilert.

“I’ll probably stare at the ceiling tonight thinking about how I can do a better job coaching them,” he said. “I do it every night. What can I do? I’m not the type of guy who is going to tear them down. I’m always the guy trying to build them up. Obviously, that’s not resonating right now.”

Freshman Ofri Naveh has rotated between the starting lineup and coming off the bench, but he’s only shooting 28.9% on the season.

Among players on the roster with more than 30 field-goal attempts, only Quinn Slazinski and Jesse Edwards are shooting better than 43% on the season.

The news only gets worse from 3-point range. WVU is last in the Big 12 in 3-pointers. The Mountaineers are tied for 314th in the country in that same category.

“It continues to kind of linger a little bit with all of these guys,” Eilert said. “They have to flush the misses. It’s a confidence thing.”

DREXEL at WVU

WHEN: 4 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: WVU Coliseum
TV: ESPN+ (Online subscription needed)
RADIO: 100.9 JACK-FM
WEB: dominionpost.com