Big Men, Big 12, Big Challenge

The challenges are obvious as West Virginia prepares to play Texas on Thursday night's quarterfinal round of the Big 12 Championship, and assistant coach Erik Martin, who tutors the Mountaineer big men, has a few items he's emphasizing to help WVU reverse the results of the first two games this year.

West Virginia dropped two decisions to Texas during the regular season, and it's no secret that the Longhorns rode their inside game to both wins. Therefore, all eyes will be on WVU's frontcourt as tip-off approaches.

For Martin, the familiarity plays a part in the preparation for the game.

"We've played the team twice, so we probably know what they are going to do. Now it's just about effort and executing it," Martin said. "I think the first two times our game plan was good, but sometimes the game plan gets thrown out the window when you are down ten."

Martin is focusing on techniques for keeping Texas off the boards (or at least minimizing their impact), but he believes there are other items that can help too.

"We don't need to take quick shots," he emphasized. "Against this team that doesn't work. Against someone that goes up and down, like Baylor or Kansas, bad shots don't hurt you as much. Texas has a way of turning bad shots into layups."

Martin's charges obviously struggled at times against the Longhorns, so he will be working with them, even as the hours tick down toward tip-off, to emphasize the good things they have done and point out improvements. However, he doesn't plan to linger too much on the latter.

"I think you treat each game each year as its own game. We've played them twice, so we have more film to watch, and we can see what we didn't do right. I've told the guys to watch that film, and I'm sure I'm going to pull a couple of them into my room tonight and show them some things that can help them. Because we are so young, I try to do a little more film work and get them prepared so they don't have to do so much thinking during the game.

"They are getting better," Martin continued. "I'm impatient. I wanted them to be where they are now back in January, but that's just not the way it is. You have to be patient with the younger guys. They have given good effort, but this is a whole new season now."

Martin is also dealing with players in different phases of the improvement process. Devin Williams is coming off one of the best games of his career, while Brandon Watkins has struggled recently, especially on defense. Martin acknowledges that, but said that doesn't result in him treating them any differently.

"Devin is in the gym. That's been the difference for him," Martin stated forcefully. "He's staying in the gym longer. I've told Brandon that he needs to get in the gym more. And that goes for everybody. I hate bringing him up again, but Kevin Jones, you never had to tell him to get in the gym. He had bad games and bad streaks, but he was always in the gym.

"You can't get better just by practicing the 2-3 hours a day that we practice as a team. You'll just be an average player. If that's what you want to be, there's nothing wrong with that, but if you want to be better than that you have to give more."

Martin hopes that message is getting through, and that the last day of studying and practice will help his bigs stave off the Texas onslaught.


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