Since WVU's last meeting with BC, the Mountaineers have managed to right the ship a bit, but are still just 1-3 over that span. The Eagles have remained unbeaten, and have turned back all challengers en route to an 18-0 record.
Craig Smith remains the monster in the middle, but forward Jared Dudley has emerged as another big scoring threat, which has opened up some breathing room for the big front court player. The big backcourt of Louis Hinnant (6-4) and Sean Marshall (6-6) continues to cause matchup problems for many opponents.
Dudley lit up the Mountaineers for 21 points and 10 rebounds in the last meeting in Morgantown, and also showed a hooligan side as he woofed and preened his way up and down the court. Despite that display, Dudley remains a very good player who must be slowed if WVU is to have a chance to knock the Eagles from the ranks of the unbeaten.
|Tue 2/1 7:30 p.m.|
WVU 12-6, 2-5
BC 18-0, 7-0
WVU - 81
BC - 2
Perhaps more importantly, Sally must rebound and defend well from the weakside of WVU's 1-3-1 zone. Dudley scored a number of points, and grabbed several rebounds, by swooping off the weakside when WVU's defense rotated to the ball side of the court. Sally, who has the leaping ability and athleticism to counter Dudley, must be aware of his presence and keep him off the boards when he crashes in from the backside off B.C. shots.
The Eagles will also certainly try a couple of screens and back door lobs to the high-leaping Dudley. And while Sally and the Mountaineers must double down on powerful Craig Smith when he posts up, they must also keep an eye over their shoulders for backscreens and ally-oop plays as well.
BC: Steve Hailey (Ankle) Doubtful
Might this be a trap game for the Eagles? BC likely won't be too intimidated by the Mountaineers' modest one-game winning streak, and will likely be thinking about the relatively easy way they handled WVU in Morgantown. BC will also be completing a two-game homestand before hitting the road for contests at Seton Hall and Notre Dame.
For WVU, this game is about earning back some lost respect. The question is, have the Mountaineers regained the confidence with which they played so freely early in the year?
This isn't the time for another tentative effort. WVU must play aggressively from the outset, attack presses, and convert in transition when opportunities arise. (That hasn't been so easy of late, as West Virginia has botched several easy scoring chances off fast breaks.)
Call us cockeyed optimists, but if WVU can reproduce the interior defensive play that held players like Josh Boone and Ryan Gomes in check, the Mountaineers could have a shot at delivering a knockout punch to the Eagles' dream of an undefeated Big East season.
B.C. could tie their longest winning streak ever (19 games) with a win over the Mountaineers.
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Kevin Pittsnogle did not attempt a three-pointer against Providence. That is the first time this season he has not taken at least one three-point attempt. When was the last time the Martinsburg sniper did not get off a three-point attempt in a game?
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Any winning streak depends on the ability to make clutch plays down the stretch and win close games, and the Eagles have demonstrated that ability. BC has won five games by four points or fewer this year.
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Without looking at the stats, who is WVU's leading three-point field goal shooter in terms of percentage?
It's Joe Herber, with a 39.7% shooting mark. Although Herber has been struggling with ballhandling of late, his work on shooting, which included putting more arc on the ball, has paid dividends.
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Statistical oddity: In its 12 wins, WVU is shooting 67.5% from the free throw line. In their six losses, the Mountaineers are almost 10 percentage points better, hitting 76.5% of their freebies.