Forward Bryant Matthews (6-7, 215) is at or near the top of just about every Tech statistical category. Averaging 24.6 points and 9.5 rebounds per contest, Randall is a fearless agressor on the offensive end who has scored almost 30% of his points from the free throw line this year.
Forward Coleman Collins (6-8, 215), who recently returned from a broken foot and has played in but five games this year, is developing into an offensive threat to complement Matthews. He averages 12.4 points per game and snares nearly five rebounds per contest. Rounding out the front line is Allen Calloway, who has started but one game this year. Calloway (6-8, 205) is scoring just 3.8 points per game, but does have 11 blocks while playing just over 16 minutes per contest.
The backcourt features freshamn Zabian Dowdell, who isn't afraid to jack up shots from anywhere. Among active Hokies, only Matthews has more attempts than Dowdell (6-2, 190) who averages 12.6 points per game and leads the team in three-point attempts. Running mate Markus Sailes (6-5, 205) is a below-average shooter who distributes the ball well and has the best assist to turnover ratio (2.6-1) on the team.
Sometime starter Phillip McCandies (6-9, 215) provides help off the bench in the frontcourt to the tune of 6.9 points and 4.2 rebounds per outing, while guard Shawn Harris (6-4, 215) is the first sub at guard, with 6.5 points per contest.
With West Virginia likely to stick to its signature 1-3-1 zone for much of the evening, there don't figure to be too many head-to-head confrontations on the Hokies' end of the floor between Sally and Matthews. However, that doesn't make this battle any less intriguing.
|Wed 1/14 7:00 p.m.|
WVU 8-4, 1-1
VT 7-5, 0-1
WVU - 59
VT - 140
|Margin: WV +13|
WVU will need to slow the slashing forward down, and keep him away from the basket if possible. Matthews thrives on getting to the hoop. He shoots better than 50% from the field, and pretty much lives at the free throw line as the result of fouls collected while taking the ball to the basket.
West Virginia needs Sally to continue the excellent play he exhibited against Georgetown, where he recorded his first career double-double and was a defensive force at the point of the 1-3-1. From that position, Sally should be able to drop down into the lane and defend against Matthews' drives from the wings.
While Sally doesn't need to match Matthews point for point on offense, another 12 point, 10 rebound game would probably go a long way toward securing another conference win for the Mountaineers.
VT: Jamon Gordon (Knee) Out
Freshman guard Zabian Dowdell is the only respectable three-point threat on the Tech squad, so expect West Virginia to guard the interior like they did against Georgetown on Saturday. Ordinarily, that would mean a 2-3 defense, but WVU's rebounding is even worse than normal out of that alignment, so instead expect a steady diet of the 1-3-1, with the wings first looking to cut Matthews' path to the basket or directing Hokies to resident shot rejector D'or Fisher.
This will be a battle of two teams who lost important cogs prior to their last game. WVU fans know the story on their side, but Tech matched that with the loss of freshman Jamon Gordon, who had been averaging 10.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per contest.
This one might come down to which team is able to overcome that loss most efficiently, pick up the pieces, and run their offense and defense with the least disruption.
Tech will put Allen Calloway on the floor to replace Gordon, while WVU counters with a bit of a different strategy. The Mountaineers will start Jerrah Young again, then come off the bench with subs at guard and center and move either Sally or Joe Herber to the four position at times. West Virginia will hope that experience at that position, hopefully facing off against inexperience on the Tech side, will swing the tide toward the home side of the Coliseum.
Despite playing at least once every year since 1969, the Hokies are chickening (turkeying?) out on future games. This contest, and the return trip to Blacksburg on February 28, will be the last games on the hardwood between the two schools for the forseeable future. Anyone wonder why?
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While West Virginia is still a young team, Tech features one senior (Matthews) and then an even more callow group of players. Other than junior quarterback Bryan Randall, who just recently joined the team, the rest of the squad is made up of freshmen and sophomores.
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West Virginia is a good shooting team, but they've hit a slump in the last three games. The Mountaineers shot 31.5 percent against Howard, 36.8 percent against Notre Dame and 35.6 percent against Georgetown. While the Mountaineers did manage a 2-1 record in those games, WVU's field goal percentage will have to improve in order to get many more Big East wins.
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Tech is hitting just 62.6% of their chances from the free throw line. That figure puts them 12th in the conference, smack dab in the middle of - unbelievably - Syracuse (11th), Pitt (13th) and UConn (14th).