West Virginia Zone Defense Presents Unique Ch

ORLANDO, Fla. — Round one provided Arkansas with a look at one of the most intense defenses around. Round two presented the Hogs with a different glance at a similar defense.

And in round three of the Old Spice Classic, tonight's 6:30 p.m. championship game against West Virginia, the Razorbacks will get a peep at yet another type of defense.

Three games, three distinctly unparalleled challenges.

"We faced a high, high pressure defensive team in Southern Illinois," Arkansas coach Stan Heath said. "We faced a sagging man-to-man team in Marist, and now we face one of the more unique defenses in the 1-3-1 zone that West Virginia runs.

"We're getting a taste of a lot of different things."

For an early season tournament like the one being played at The Milk House in Orlando, Fla., the diverse challenges are a bonus to Heath.

His Hogs (4-0) have conquered the first two tasks, toppling the Salukis and Red Foxes by scoring just enough points to go along with their own harassing defense.

But tonight, Arkansas will encounter a defense that most teams rarely see. The 1-3-1 zone defense employed by the Mountaineers (5-0) is tough enough for the Big East schools that have ample time to prepare for it.

In a tournament format, though, attempting to dissect the zone defense can simply madden West Virginia's opponents.

"It's very difficult to prepare in one day for some of the things we do," West Virginia coach John Beilein said.

The Mountaineers' constant defense has allowed Beilein to toy with his offensive options. West Virginia lost two 18-point scorers in Kevin Pittsnogle and Mike Gansey from its team that advanced to the regional finals in last year's NCAA Tournament.

Finding sources for points won't worry Beilein too much if the Mountaineers keep forcing turnovers like they did in a 25-point victory over Western Michigan in the Old Spice classic semifinals.

"We had 12 deflections at halftime," Mountaineers junior Darris Nichols said. "We're so much more athletic and longer this year. We're able to get our hands on so many balls."

That ability to pester opposing guards makes the performance of Arkansas' starting backcourt of junior Gary Ervin and freshman Patrick Beverley crucial to Arkansas' success. Ervin has shown the tendency to turn the ball over, and Beverley struggled at times with Southern Illinois' pressure.

So to Heath, who nearly accepted the West Virginia head coaching position before coming to Fayetteville, tonight's test — win or lose — would go a long way to aid the improvement of a young team.

"To see a lot of different styles, to have teams come after us in different ways, and to see us respond down the stretch in the previous two games," Heath said. "This is just what the doctor ordered for us."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories