The big and active Friar front line will be a handful for the Mountaineers, starting with forward Ryan Gomes. The 6-foot-7, 245-pounder can shoot and score from just about anywhere on the floor, averaging 20.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per night. He's nicely complemented by center Marcus Douthit (6-10, 235) a long shot-blocker who adds 8.2 points and 6.0 boards per outing to his 45 blocks this year.
The third starter up front is forward Tuuka Kotti, who is the smallest of the group (6-9, 220) but who blends in nicely to the tune of 6.6 points and 4.3 boards per game.
In the backcourt, guard Donnie McGrath keys the attack, but also manages to score. The 6-4, 190-pound guard averages almost four assists each time out, but still manages 10.3 points per game as well. He teams with Sheiku Kabba (6-3, 200) to provide experience and stability at the ballhandling positions. Kabba, who replaced the injured Rob Sanders in the backcourt, is shooting just 36% from the floor, but with Gomes and McGrath on the floor, won't be required to score much in the Friar offense.
Providence has been going with a short bench after the loss of Sanders, with swingman Dwight Brewington (6-5, 190) being the only player getting appreciable minutes. He averages 4.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per outing.
A classic confontation of big shot blockers whose defensive presence controls the paint. Which pivotman will be able to announce his presence with authority?
|Sat 1/17 7:30 p.m.|
|Dunkin' Donuts Center|
WVU 8-5, 1-2
PC 9-3, 1-1
WVU - 80
PC - 11
|Margin: PC +15|
Fischer must be able to help close the lane, and especially provide defensive help against Gomes in order to keep his team close. On the offensive end, Fischer must be enough of a threat to keep Douthit from coming off him and blocking WVU's back cuts and drives to the basket.
Fischer has the offensive game to achieve this goal, but he must get the ball in the proper position and be aggressive in looking for his shots. The big center passed up a couple of good opportunities in the second half against Virginia Tech on Wednesday, but he can't afford to do that if WVU is to rebuild their offense this year.
Douthit, on the other hand, only needs to battle his opponent to a draw. If he can score his own points and keep Fischer occupied, Gomes will probably enjoy a free path to the basket on more occasions than the Mountaineers will care to see.
PC: Rob Sanders Out, Abdul Mills Questionable
West Virginia has one edge going for them in this game, but aren't really equipped to take advantage of it. With the Friars likely to play only seven or eight players, an uptempo team might be able to force the pace and wear Providence down.
Although WVU would like to fast break more, transition offense depends on defensive rebounding, which is the weakest area in the Mountaineer arsenal. And without that play phase to force the pace, West Virginia probably won't be able to weaken the strong Friar front line.
WVU's 1-3-1 defense will also get a severe test from Gomes, who loves to operate along the baseline. The big forward has a nice midrange shot, so giving him any open floor to operate in could be an invitation for a big night. The Mountaineers will likely have to change their defensive strategy, and perhaps play a bit more 2-3 against the home team, in order to make a run at stealing a big road win.
The problem with that, however, is that WVU seems to rebound worse out of the 2-3 than any of their other defenses. Normally, the 2-3 is one of the better alignments to promote defensive boardwork, but it's been a struggle for West Virginia all year.
Patrick Beilein's 16 points against Virginia Tech was a career high, as were his five three-pointers.
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The West Virginia game will be the first of five in nine days for the Friars. Their toughest opponent in that stretch is UConn, but they will also face Loyola of Chicago, Georgetown and Villanova during that overcrowded portion of their schedule.
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Guard Gerald Brown is a late addition to the Providence roster, having just joined the team at the end of the first semester. Brown came to the Friars from Fork Union Military Academy.
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After leading Providence in scoring during the 2001-02 season, guard Abdul Mills has faded almost to the point of invisibiity. Mills sat out all of last year with an injury, and has appeared in just two games this year as he fights to regain his playing form.