Auburn Preview

West Virginia travels to Birmingham, Ala., to take on Auburn in the Big East/SEC Invitational.

SCOUTING THE TIGERS

Auburn has been saddled with a short rotation in its first five games due to suspensions and injuries, but does have a bit of help (and height) returning for the game against the Mountaineers.

Auburn has won four games in a row with a four guard lineup, but despite the height disparity has been able to battle foes on nearly even terms on the boards. Led by junior Rasheem Barrett and senior Frank Tolbert, the Tigers have been able to exploit some mismatches on the perimeter. Barrett (6-5, 220 lbs.) is a strongly built swingman who averages 13.4 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, but also shares the ball well, as his 4.2 assists per outing attest. Tolbert (6-4, 210 lbs.) is another effective wing player who tallies 12.2 points and 4.6 boards. He drives the ball well and is adept at drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line.

Junior Quantez Robertson (6-3, 195 lbs.) is a tallish point guard who takes advantage of his size to find good passing lanes to his teammates. He has a 2.3-1 assist to turnover ratio, abut still finds opportunities to chip in 7.8 points per contest. Sophomore DeWayne Reed (6-1, 175 lbs.) fills out backcourt brigade, and although he is the least experienced of the quartet, holds his own with 9.8 points and 4.0 steals per game. Look for Reed to match up against WVU's Darris Nichols in what should be an interesting battle.

In the frontcourt, junior Korvotney Barber (6-7, 225 lbs.) may be a bit lonely, but he has put up excellent numbers. He is averaging 16.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while shouldering almost all of the inside work for the Tigers. Barber is expecting relieve from Quan Prowell, who was suspended for a violation of team rules before the season started, and has yet to see any action. Fortunately for Auburn, Prowell (6-8, 215 lbs.) comes off suspension just in time for the West Virginia game. The senior forward should help Barber on the boards, and could add some scoring punch as well.

Other frontcourt players expected to see time are Lucas Hargrove (6-6, 190 lbs.), who contributes a solid 5.4 points and 4.6 rebounds in just more than 16 minutes of action per game, and Matt Heramb (6-9, 225 lbs.), who chips in with 5.2 points in his 12 minutes per contest.

OUTLOOK

Auburn's rotation presents a very different look from most teams. If the Tigers continue with their four guard starting lineup, they are a squad that actually gets much bigger when its subs hit the floor. Of course, all of the forwards off the bench won't sub for guards when they come in, but with the addition of Prowell, the Tigers could bring in 6-8 and 6-9 bookends for Barber, and put a lineup that features no player shorter than 6-4 on the floor.

BlueGoldNews.com
Game Info
Wed Dec 5
9:30 p.m.

Birmingham Jefferson
Convention Complex
Records
WVU 5-1, 0-0
AU 4-1, 0-0
Series
AU 2-1
TV
ESPN2
Sirius Channel: 181
RPI
WVU – 125
AU - 140
The tigers are expected, however, to stick with their smaller lineup, which presents some interesting matchups for West Virginia in this contest. WVU has enjoyed a size advantage over the teams it has faced at home this year, but none of them have the athleticism of Auburn, which depends on a drive and dish strategy to make its offense go. With a number of players spread around the perimeter that are capable of getting to the basket or kicking the ball back out if the defense collapses, the Tigers will put a different sort of stress on West Virginia's sticky man-to-man tactics. WVU will have to close out on shooters and not allow open looks to Auburn, which has improved its shooting accuracy over its last two games.

It will also be interesting to see how West Virginia attacks an Auburn defense that depends on quickness. WVU's physical play on the defensive end has translated well at times to offense, where the Mountaineers have gotten to the boards and scored a number of second chance points in 2007. However, consistency in that area hasn't been to Bob Huggins' liking yet, and this game should provide a good challenge to see how much progress the Mountaineers have made.

Although it would seem as if this game would not provide the best matchup for WVU center Jamie Smalligan, it could be an important contest for the Mountaineer big man. Smalligan has been mired in a shooting slump, and a trip to a new venue cold be the thing to snap him out of the cold streak he has been experiencing. Smalligan has improved his defense and rebounding this year, and when his shooting touch returns, he will likely earn more minutes in the West Virginia lineup. Against the Tigers' smaller, more mobile lineup, however, he might not see as much time.

INJURY REPORT

WVU: Cam Thoroughman (Knee) Questionable

AU: Boubacar Sylla (Ankle) Out

FAST BREAKS

While West Virginia lived on three-point shooting margins under John Beilein, the Mountaineers are still making a lot of hay in that area under Bob Huggins – just in a slightly different manner. WVU has made 58 threes in six games this year, an average of 9.6 per game. That's just slightly lower than last year's 10.3 per contest. The difference comes on the defensive end, where WVU has yielded just 28 treys this year, and is holding foes to 28% shooting from beyond the arc.

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The game against Auburn is just the latest in a string of coincidental football/basketball matchups with the same school. WVU faces the Tigers next year at home in the first game of a two game football series. In a little less than a month, West Virginia will face Oklahoma on the basketball court (Dec. 29) and on the football field (Jan. 3). In 2003, West Virginia defeated Maryland in an early December basketball encounter before dropping the Gator Bowl to the Terrapins.

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Twelve of Joe Alexander's 28 rebounds over the past three games have come on the offensive end of the floor. Through six games, Alexander has 19 offensive rebounds. In all of last year, he had just 52.

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All three of the games in the WVU-Auburn series occurred in less than one year's time. Auburn defeated West Virginia 59-58 in Morgantown on Dec. 29, 1984. The No. 10 Tigers were upset by the Mountaineers 75-58 in the Big Apple NIT in Hartford, Conn., on Nov. 22, 1985. Two weeks later, Auburn defeated West Virginia 84- 59 in Auburn in a return game from the previous season.


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