Preview - Providence

West Virginia begins a stretch of four games inside the state's borders with a home contest against Providence.

SCOUTING THE FRIARS

In some ways, Providence is similar to Georgetown, in that the Friars are led in scoring by a trio of guards. However, the Friar offense is nothing like the Hoyas' patterned sets of screens, reads, and cuts, so West Virginia will deal with those perimeter players in a different manner than they did against Georgetown's last weekend. Also of note is the youth of head coach Keno Davis' club. PC starts two freshmen and two sophomores, and has a staggering nine true freshmen and two redshirt freshmen on its 17-player roster

Wooden-Award candidate Marshon Brooks is the catalyst for Friar success. The 6-5, 200-pound senior pours in 23 points per game (good for fifth in the nation), and gets shots away from all over the floor. He's Providence's most accurate shooter, and thus has 76 more shot attempts than his next closest teammate. With a 50.4% shooting mark from the floor, and a 79.6% success rate at the free throw line, Brooks scores his points in a variety of manners, and is clearly option #1 on offense. He's not just a gunner, however. He pulls down eight rebounds per game (second-best on the team, with 43 of those on the offensive end. It won't be a surprise to see WVU's John Flowers draw him as his primary defensive assignment.

Complementing Brooks on the perimeter are guards Vincent Council and Gerard Coleman, the only other Friars averaging double figures in points. Council (6-2, 180) keys the attack from the point, averaging 15.2 points per game while dishing out 6.7 assists per contest (tops in the Big East). He's prone to turnovers at times, as is his WVU counterpart Truck Bryant, so one of the keys for this game will be who protects the ball better. Coleman, a freshman, is pouring in 15.2 points per game, but is doing so on just 28% shooting from the field. He has accounted for 78 of his 259 points from the free throw line, so playing solid defense and not fouling him will also be a point of importance for the Mountaineer defense. Coleman (6-4, 180) thrives on driving and shooting from the mid-range, and has made just eight 3-pointers in 17 games.

BlueGoldNews.com
Game Info
Thu Jan 13
7:00 PM EST

WVU Coliseum
Records
WVU 10-4, 2-2
Providence 11-6 0-4
Series
WVU 15-11
TV
ESPN2
Sirius: 91 113/203
RPI
WVU - 14
Providence - 94
A pair of 6-9 players, Kadeem Batts and Bilal Dixon, round out the expected starting lineup. Dixon is fourth in the league in rebounding with 8.3 per game, and he chips in with 6.6 points per game. He's making just 48% of his free throw attempts, however, so look for WVU to challenge him when he has the ball. Dixon is also the enforcer in the lane, blocking 39 shots this year while providing an intimidating defensive presence. Batts averages an ultra-efficient 7.1 points per game -- he's attempted just 71 shots this year -- but unlike Dixon is solid from the line, converting 69% of his chances. He pitches in with 4.9 rebounds per contest.

Providing backup support in the backcourt are Duke Mondy (6-3, 200) and Bryce Cotton (6-1, 165). Mondy, a sophomore, gets almost 24 minutes per game in his support role, and averages 7.5 points and 2.8 rebounds per contest. He's a strong defender with 34 steals to date, and he's often featured as part of a three-guard set. Cotton tallies nearly 14 minutes per game, and ships in with 3.8 points per game. He takes care of the ball, having surrendered just five turnovers on the season, and provides reliable minutes off the bench.

Ron Giplaye (6-6 230) and Lee Goldsbrough (6-9, 220) combine to average 11 minutes per game in providing the bulk of the frontcourt support for Davis' team. Neither is a big scoring threat, but they have totaled 45 rebounds between them on the season, including 20 on the offensive end. West Virginia will need to limit their contributions in that role to keep them from having an impact on the game.

OUTLOOK

In breaking in his young team, Davis crafted an out of conference schedule that lacked top-tier opponents, but that was likely just what his team needed to introduce it to college competition. The Friars suffered losses to LaSalle and Boston College, the only two solid teams it faced before embarking on league play. However, that approach looks to have been successful in the short run, despite four consecutive losses to open Big East play. The Friars lost to Syracuse, St. John's and Pitt by a combined 13 points before suffering a disappointing 13-point road loss to Rutgers last Saturday.

That building process will continue in the West Virginia game, which is the middle of a three-game road swing for the Friars. Providence will try to exploit WVU's sometimes-sloppy transition defense and keep the Coliseum crowd out of the contest. West Virginia, for its part, should again try to establish its inside game, which has show flashes of good play so far this year, but hasn't been the consistent force it needs to complement the outside scoring of Casey Mitchell.

On the surface, the showdown of Mitchell vs. Brooks is the selling point for this contest, but its not likely to be the deciding factor. Both are proven scorers, but they could, in effect, cancel each other out on the scoreboard, leaving other areas of the game to have greater impact on the outcome. for instance, outside of Brooks, the Friars are a poor shooting team from the perimeter, averaging just 30.8% as a team from behind the arc. They have outscored their opponents by nearly 100 points from the free throw line, however, so West Virginia must play smartly on defense and avoid giving the Friars extra chances from the free throw line.

On the flip side of the equation, WVU will face a team that presses throughout the contest. Providence mixes a variety of pressure looks that test opponents' consistency in handling the ball. The Mountaineers have been mostly solid against the press this year, using John Flowers as an inbound target for passes, but there have been bad stretches in which West Virginia hasn't pushed the ball upcourt, much to head coach Bob Huggins' displeasure. WVU will need to make smart decisions against the press and attack when it beats traps in the backcourt in order to curtail PC's aggressiveness in defending all 94 feet.

Match-ups aside, this is a game that West Virginia has to win if it wants to be a player in the Big East conference. Providence certainly has the ability to spring the upset, but WVU can't be the victim if it hopes to be vying for good seeding in the Big East tournament. While the Friars do have hope for the future, such a young and inexperienced lineup is still learning the tough lessons of life on the road, where they are just 1-4 this year.

INJURY REPORT

WVU: Truck Bryant (Foot) Probable, Kevin Noreen (Knee) Out for Season

Providence: None

FAST BREAKS

Despite the close all-time series record, Providence has won just once in the WVU Coliseum. That came nearly 12 years ago, when it defeated WVU 77-68 on Feb. 3, 1999. WVU has won the last six meetings in the series.

* * *

In its four losses this year, West Virginia has shot better from the free throw and 3-point lines than in its ten wins. In the losses, WVU has made 73.8% of its foul shots and 37% of its threes, while the wins show marks of just 68.6% and 33.1%, respectively. The key for the Mountaineers, as one might suspect, is defensive in nature. In the wins, WVU holds foes to just 38.1% from the field, and grabs 39 rebounds. In losses, foes are shooting 50.7% while WVU manages just 31 boards.

* * *

Despite its Final Four run an a record number of season tickets sold, WVU is just seventh in the league in average home attendance, with 9,783 fans per game. WVU has played the fewest home games of any Big East team to date, with just five contests prior to the Providence game. Only USF, with six road games, has played more than WVU's five games on the home floors of opposing teams. In all, West Virginia has played nine games away from home (road and neutral combined), a figure matched only by Georgetown.

* * *

Joe Mazzulla's excellent assist to turnover ratio of 51-19 might be expected, but WVU's #2 player in that category isn't one you might quickly guess. Senior Cam Thoroughman has 27 assists against just 14 turnovers this year.


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