WVU ready for tough matchup vs. Baylor bigs

All season, West Virginia has been able to hold its own and assert itself as one of the best teams in the Big 12 Conference.

But if there has been one thorn in the Mountaineers' side this year it has been the team that will be going up against them in tomorrow's quarterfinals in Kansas City at the Big 12 championships.

In the two meetings against Baylor this season, West Virginia was outmanned by the Bears' big men - led by junior Rico Gathers - as the Mountaineer frontcourt struggled to meet the challenge in either meeting. The first game, in which Baylor won by 18 points, the Bears scored 40 of their 87 points in the paint and outrebounded the Mountaineers by eight boards. And in the 12-point loss in Waco a few weeks ago, although the numbers weren't in the Bears' favor quite as much, Gathers and the other big men helped lead BU to another win against WVU.

This time, West Virginia is ready for the challenge.

"We've just got to give effort," said West Virginia forward Devin Williams. "Those two games that we've played them so far, they've just outworked us as a team. The best thing we can do is come together and give that effort and show our West Virginia identity that everyone is familiar with."

Williams' matchup against Gathers is one that is circled as one of the more intriguing and critical showdowns to watch for Thursday afternoon when the two teams square off. Williams finished the season with eight double-doubles and averages 8.2 rebounds per game, a mark that jumps up to nearly nine boards per game against Big 12 foes this year.

The sophomore is second in the Big 12 in both of those categories to Gathers, who has emerged as the top rebounder in the conference and one of the best in all of college basketball.

He's averaging 11.6 rebounds per game, and has had more than 10 rebounds in 12 of Baylor's 18 Big 12 games this season.

So, how does Williams go about trying to overpower and move around the 6-foot-8, 280-pound big man who no one has been able to push around this season? The answer is pretty simple.

"You don't. You just have to try to move faster and outwork him," Williams said. "He's going to try to do what he does and I'm going to go out there and do what I'm capable of.

"I definitely have to go out there and be a presence and just try to outwork him and be me. I just have to do what I do and help the team and hopefully we can come out with a win."

Williams has proven himself to be among the best big men in the league. The honorable mention all-Big 12 pick is averaging nearly 12 points per game and has been a steady, consistent force against every challenge thrown his way.

Thursday night he'll be ready to take on his most important one of the season.

"It's go hard or go home now," he said.

"I've been challenged and stuff like that all year, so any time I can get a challenge that's going to benefit me, it's good and it's somehting I look forward to."

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