Towering Task

West Virginia head basketball coach Bob Huggins has been able to mix and match the skills of his players to overcome some matchup problems this year, but he doesn't see any ready-made solutions for Georgetown, which invades the WVU Coliseum on Saturday night as the number one team in the Big East.

"I don't know," was Huggins' initial response to how his team will battle the Hoyas. "We are so small and they are so big. We played Joe Alexander some [against Marshall], and he is not near what he was. You can tell by looking at him that he is not nearly as explosive as he usually is. He is laboring. We will have to make a decision on that. He wants to play, but may have to shut him down and see if that helps."

Alexander is suffering from a groin injury that has limited his jumping and driving ability. Although he had two dunks against the Herd, neither featured his usual elbows above the rim flight path. The injury also kept him from driving the ball, which is a major staple of his offensive game. Like hamstring pulls, groin injuries often require complete rest over a long period of time to heal, so the fear of re-aggravation and worsening of the problem is a real one.

West Virginia needs Alexander to offset the height advantage possessed by the Hoyas, particularly that of center Roy Hibbert.

"First and foremost he fortifies the basket for them," Huggins said of the problems posed by the Georgetown senior. "You don't get anything close, so that forces you to rely on perimeter shooting. He passes the ball so well, and he can make shots. He is a great screener, too. I think he has a tremendous impact on the game, and a lot of that is in ways people don't even imagine."

Huggins also commented on guard Jesse Sapp, who sometimes is overlooked when evaluating the Hoyas.

"He makes perimeter shots, and is as good as anybody in our league at straghtline driving to the basket. The way they are able to spread the court opens that up and gives him opportunities to get to the basket."


After six games in the Big East, Huggins was asked to assess the strength of the league against Conference USA and the Big XIII – his two previous conference homes.

"There are great coaches in all three leagues," Huggins said thoughtfully. And three of the league games we have played are current or former CUSA teams (Louisville, Marquette and Marshall). But this (Big East) is a great league. The coaches in this league are Hall of Fame guys. In the Big XII we had one in Coach Knight. There are alot of good coaches everywhere, but this league, top to bottom, has really good coaches. There is no one here that you think you can trick. And what separates them is their ability to recruit good players."

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Huggins was still looking back at his team's hideous 11-28 mark from the free throw line.

"We needed to make some free throws, because it makes it hard to paly well when you aren't making any," he lamented. "It was just one of those games where it was hard to get in any kind of rhythm or flow. I guess it was a good game if you were watching from a seat other than mine."

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