The 6-8, 275-pound forward averages 11.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, but the Mountaineers held him to just five points and seven rebounds in the first series meeting. Gathers missed eight of nine shots and got to the free throw line just twice, while WVU's Devin Williams tallied 16 points and seven rebounds. They key, according to head coach Bob Huggins, was West Virginia's ability to force Gathers into more difficult interior shots.
"Make him catch it a little further away from the basket," Huggins said. "That's hard to do."
Indeed, Gathers is one of the more physically imposing players in a conference full of them. He has feasted on the Mountaineers in past seasons, especially last year when the teams played three games when both were ranked. The Bears won all three. Gathers totalled 17 points and 16 rebounds in Morgantown, 17 points and 10 rebounds in Waco and topped it off with 15 points and nine rebounds in the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City.
The latter sent West Virginia packing after the first round for the third consecutive season in the league. In fact, the No. 10 Mountaineers (23-7, 12-5) have not won a conference tournament game since capturing the Big East title in 2010. They're set up for a run this season, however, especialy if they can again limit Gathers and Baylor's outside shooting and lock down the second seed. A loss could put WVU in third if Oklahoma defeats last place TCU in Fort Worth.
Huggins said it will be imperative that Williams, the Big 12 leader in double-doubles with 13, is able to at least stalemate Gathers on the inside. Do that, and again hold the Bears to under 30 percent shooting from three-point range - Taurean Prince missed all five in the first game, and BU connected on just 4-of-16 from three - and the Mountaineers have a chance for their sixth series sweep of the season.
"I think real important," Huggins said when asked if Williams needed a bit of a bounce back game after missing five of six shots and scoring just two points in the win over Texas Tech. "He was great yesterday. I think that other guys were scoring (versus Tech) and after the game he was happy."
But not pleased with his own performance. Williams said before the last match-up that Baylor "puts their pants on just like we do," but it's no question he challenged himself to match-up with Gathers after the senior had battered WVU three times in as many games. The Mountaineers, 11th in the latest NCAA RPI, will need that same type of effort and execution this time around, especially inside the Ferrell Center where the Bears are 15-4 this season.
- West Virginia's next win will be the 1,700th in school history. WVU ranks 22nd all-time in Division I wins. Huggins' next win will be his 789th, which would break his tie with Cliff Ellis for ninth place all-time at the Division I level.
- Huggins was asked to compare and contrast his currrent team with the 2010 group that made a Final Four run, and whether this version of the Mountaineers was capable of the same. "I think a lot of it is match-ups and how well you match-up with different people," he said. "Some teams, whether it's personnel or the way they do things, are harder than others. We have proven we are capable of beating just about anybody. We just have to make shots. I guess the similarities are this team has underclassmen, and we play three sophomores a bunch. This team doesn't have as much senior leadership as what that team had. But (Kevin Jones), Devin (Ebanks) and Truck (Bryant) were all sophomores."