A lot has changed in the six weeks since the first WVU-Tech matchup, but one thing that has remained constant for the the Hokies is the scoring of Bryant Matthews. He continues to lead the conference at a 22.5 points per game clip, and also leads his team in minutes, shots, rebounds, blocked shots, and steals.
Freshman Zabain Dowdell hasn't shown any signs of hitting the wall, as first-year players often do. Although his shooting percentages aren't the greatest (37.2% FG, 31.6% 3PtFG) he is a dangerous scorer who gives the Techsters more scoring punch from the perimeter. Guard Markus Sailes, a shaky shooter during the first part of the season, has heated up in conference play, and is shooting 44.4% from the field against Big East opponents.
Following their win over WVU, Tech proceeded to lose their next five games, and appeared to be in danger of missing yet another trip to New York for the Big East tournament. However, starting with a wildly improbable upset over Providence, the Hokies have gone 3-3 over their last six contests to put them back in the hunt for a trip to the Big Apple.
Dowdell was the key ingredient in Tech's upset win over the Mountaineers in February, scoring 20 points while hitting five of nine shots from three-point range.
|Sat 2/28 Noon|
WVU 14-10, 6-7
VT 11-13, 4-9
WVU - 81
VT - 140
|Margin: WVU +1|
When WVU is in their 1-3-1, Herber, from his wing position, must cover Dowdell early and not allow him to get into the shooting rhythm that he found in Morgantown. (That goes for the opposite wing of the defense as well, of course.) That's a difficult task, because the Mountaineers will be concentrating on Matthews first, but as the learned in their first encounter, Dowdell can't be ignored when he spots up opposite Matthews and awaits passes from his driving teammate.
In man to man, Herber could draw Dowdell, but that task could also fall to Tyrone Sally. Either way, Dowdell's defender can't sag and provide too much help, otherwise Dowdell will likely spot up and hurt WVU from behind the arc again.
West Virginia put very little pressure on Dowdell when he was on defense last time, so that must change as well. The Hokie freshman is not the strongest of defenders by any means, so WVU needs to put him under the gun on the defensive end. By doing so, they could lessen his effectivness on the opposite end of the floor. More Herber dashes to the basket could be just the ticket to make that tactic work.
With games left with Rutgers and Georgetown, Tech appears to be in good shape to capture one of the final spots in the Big East tournament, but there's no doubt that the Hokies would love to get another leg up by completing a season sweep of the Mountaineers. With all the bad feelings between the two schools about Tech's defection to the ACC, this game will have an even greater level of intensity.
Tech will further be fueled by a sellout crowd that figures to rain invective on the Mountaineers from the moment they hit the floor. That will be a far cry from WVU's last trip to Blacksburg, when the media contingent covering the game almost outnumbered the fans in attendance.
How West Virginia handles that road environment will be one of the biggest factors in the outcome of the contest. The Mountaineers couldn't find any motivation and appeared very listless in their loss to Rutgers on Wednesday. The concern is, with a Big East tournament spot locked up, that WVU is cruising through the final part of its schedule. Whether that is true or not remains to be seen, but there's no doubt that if the Mountaineers come out flat, the Hokies will gain at least of bit of revenge for the 28-7 thumping WVU delivered to their football counterparts last October.
Tech currently has a three-game home winning streak in the conference. That's their longest Big East streak in history.
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Against Rutgers, for only the second time this year, D'or Fischer did not block a shot.
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While John Beilein's troops have the reputation for protecting the basketball, Tech is the league leader in that statistic. They are first in the conference in turnover margin with an excellent +4.79 mark.
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West Virginia's shooting, once a strength, has become a major concern. The Mountaineers are hitting just 43.1% from the field, and 35.9% from beyond the arc. In conference play, those numbers are even worse, at 42.0% and 33.2%, respectively.