Keys to the West Virginia Rematch

Three weeks ago, West Virginia pounded Rutgers 86-75 in Morgantown. The game was nowhere near as close as the final score indicated, as West Virginia led by as many as 20 points. The Scarlet Knights played without passion and were cut to pieces by the precise movement and passing of the well-coached Mountaineers. A Rutgers win will move the Scarlet Knights past West Virginia in the Big East standings.


1.  Smother Drew Schifino.  Sophomore SG Drew Schifino (6'-3" and 200 lb) is Head Coach John Beilein's primary offensive weapon.  Schifino has attempted more than twice as many FGAs as any other Mountaineer and is averaging 21 ppg.  Schifino torched Rutgers for 32 points in Round 1 at West Virginia, hitting his average by halftime.  Rutgers defended Schifino terribly, playing as if they had clue to his capabilties and limitations.  Schifino is not a 3-point shooter -- taking less than three 3PAs per game and making only 25%.  Schifino is a slasher -- he averages over 5 FTAs per game.  Rutgers played Schifino stupidly three weeks ago, running at him and allowing him to easily drive around his off-balance defender.  Waters has plenty of depth at guard.  Waters must run a steady stream of defenders at Schifino and wear him down.  Deny cuts to the basket off the ball.  Deny dribble penetration once he gets the ball.  Force him to take perimeter jump shots.  Force another Mountaineer to carry the West Virginia offense.   

2.  Suffocate Kevin Pittsnogle.  Freshman C Kevin Pittsnogle victimized Rutgers for a career high 26 points three weeks ago.  As with Schifino, Rutgers played as if it had never seen Pittsnogle, either.  The sweet-shooting freshman pivot was repeatedly left open above the FT line, from where he buried open shot after open shot.  Pittsnogle nearly reached his average by halftime, too.  When Axani is on Pittsnogle, Rutgers must play go man-to-man defense. No sloughing off Pittsnogle. Ax must stick to him and let the other four guys play team defense.  Kareem couldn't cover Pittsnogle outside man-to-man.  In the 2-3 zone that Head Coach Gary Waters employed, West Virginia overloaded one side and used quick ball reversal to get a shooter on the wing, forcing Wrigth to run at the shooter (and leave Pittsnogle wide open on the FT line).  Rutgers can't leave Pittsnogle.  When Wright is on Pittsnogle, throw a 1-3-1 zone at West Virginia.  Put Juel Wiggan, Mike Sherrod, Calvin Wooten, or even seldom-used Jason McCoy on the baseline and let them run sideline to sideline. The 1-3-1 will leave Kareem in the middle to guard Pittsnogle and will allow the baseline runner to chase the baseline cuts that otherwise would overload a zone.  The zone must identify the shooters and slashers and defend each appropriately. 

3.  Ride Kareem Wright Inside.  Pittsnogle, at 6'-10" and 225 lb, is the Mountaineers tallest and heaviest player.  Beilein essentially uses a 4-guard lineup with Pittsnogle as his lone "big man".  West Virginia has nobody remotely capable of matching up with Wright inside.  Waters must aggressively use Wright on the offensive end.  Rutgers repeatedly must work the ball inside to Kareem to punish the smaller Mountaineers with his height and strength advantage.  An effective zone defense will allow Kareem to stay on the floor without exposing him defensively.  If Waters doesn't get a scoring outburst from Wright, he should not be on the floor against the smaller Mountaineers. 

4.  Transition Scoring.  West Virginia is slow, small, and not very athletic.  Rutgers must crank up the transition game.  Dominate the defensive glass.  Get the ball upcourt with quick outlet passes.  Fill the lanes.  Distribute the ball.  And finish.  Transition scoring will give Rutgers easy points and it will put a shallow West Virginia team into foul trouble.  The Scarlet Knigts must be aggressive and unselfish.  Rutgers needs to score at least 20 points off transition.   

5.  Good Shot Selection.  Poor shot selection has haunted Rutgers all season long.  A relentless defense has often given the Scarlet Knights an extra 15 to 20 FGAs than their opponent takes.  And Rutgers still manages to lose because its offense is undisciplined and selfish.  The Scarlet Knights showed better judgment and more aggressiveness in critical wins over Boston College and Georgetown.  Rutgers didn't settle for 3PAs.  The Scarlet Knights attached the opponent with dribble penetration and passes into the low post, forcing the defense to contract.  Unselfish passing produced open shots.  Rutgers must attack West Virginia inside.  That will open up the perimeter.

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