To say West Virginia didn’t fare well against the Baylor Bears last season would be a gross understatement. In two regular season matchups, Baylor beat the Mountaineers by an average margin of 15 points.
Head coach Scott Drew’s team then bounced West Virginia from the Big 12 Tournament with a 10-point win in the quarterfinal.
Sophomore forward Elijah Macon said the team has dissected film from those three losses last year in the build up to this game in order to find the best way to turn things around.
“It was all three games that we focused on, how we can score the ball, what things we have to do to stop them and make sure we get them out of their offense,” he said.
If West Virginia can flip the script tomorrow night, it would have big ramifications for the conference standings, putting the Mountaineers two games clear of Baylor with a head-to-head win in their back pocket.
For that to happen, Macon said West Virginia must be aggressive in attacking Baylor’s zone in the half court, and never lose sight of senior forward Rico Gathers.
“It’s just attacking that middle, man, making sure someone is keeping Gathers occupied and just keep attacking the middle. If we get the ball in the middle people have to sink to make a play. Once you get the ball in the middle, collapse, and you can make plays from there. Hit shooters on the outside, run our offense and get someone driving down the middle of the lane or whatever it is. If you get it in the middle it makes the defense collapse to the middle which helps people on the perimeter get open,” he said.
Limiting Gathers is never an easy task, but one way to accomplish that is getting him in foul trouble. Macon said West Virginia will aim to do just that tomorrow night.
“Just driving it, going downhill, which we did pretty good with late in stretches against Iowa State. We started to attack the basket a little bit more. Once you get those couple guys in foul trouble, you can go at the people off the bench to make plays…That’s when we can really attack them,” he said.
It’s no coincidence that when West Virginia attacked the basket against the Cyclones, torrid scoring stretches followed. With the way fouls are being dished out by referees this year, defenders are in a tough position when it comes to defending the drive.
Duplicating that formula against the Bears and Rico Gathers will be crucial for West Virginia in this game.