No. 11 West Virginia presses on with game against Radford (Dec 20, 2016)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Year 3 of “Press Virginia” looks more aggressive and perplexing than ever.

For sure, the nation’s 209th-rated schedule hasn’t provided much resistance, yet the scope of the blowouts and the voracity with which No. 11 West Virginia is defending makes coach Bob Huggins think his team might be something special.

The Mountaineers (9-1) are outscoring opponents by 34.5 points and forcing 26 turnovers per game, both tops in Division I, as they prepare to host Radford (4-6) on Tuesday.

Most surprisingly, West Virginia has curbed its penchant for fouling even as officials continue to tightly enforce freedom-of-movement rules.

For each of the past two years, the Mountaineers committed 23.5 fouls per game, a figure that ranked third most in the country last season and was dead last in 2014-2015. This season, West Virginia has trimmed that to 18.5 fouls, which ranks 133rd of 347 teams.

Guards Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles and Tarik Phillip combine for nearly seven steals per game — more than 228 teams — and senior forward Nathan Adrian has taken over at the head of West Virginia’s full-court press.

“You’re talking about JC and Dax and Tarik being in the system three years and Teyvon (Myers) has two years,” Huggins said. “We do it every day, so they ought to get better at it.”

As the Mountaineers committed their share of silly reach-ins during past seasons, Huggins has railed on officials for ignoring trapped offensive players who created contact or shuffled pivot feet in stepping through double teams.

“I’d like to have a seminar with the officials,” Huggins joked Saturday after posting his 800th coaching win. “If we’re going to have a cylinder, the cylinder has to work both ways. If we can’t reach in the cylinder, they shouldn’t be able to reach out of the cylinder. That’s my biggest pet peeve of the year.”

Then the 35th-year coach smiled at what he considers a point of progress: “At least they’re starting to call traveling once in a while.”

Sophomore forward Esa Ahmad, the team’s top scorer at 12.6 points per game and one of six Mountaineers averaging more than a steal per game, said defenders are tightening up their rotations and making smarter choices about when to trap.

“Last year, it was more uncontrolled effort,” Ahmad said. “We were just running everywhere. It was crazy.”

Radford is 0-4 against teams in the RPI top 100, losing to North Carolina 95-50, UNC-Wilmington 100-64, Wake Forest 80-59 and Akron 88-41.

Forward Ed Polite (10.2 points, 10.1 rebounds) averages a double-double for the Highlanders, who are coached by former West Virginia assistant Mike Jones.