Preview: West Virginia - Georgetown

Everywhere you look, the Hoyas have players that can shoot and defend, so it's no surprise to see them at the top of the Big East conference.

SCOUTING THE HOYAS

Georgetown starts a three-guard offense, but gets bigger off the bench, from which it can deploy three subs standing 6-8 or taller. Of the top nine players in the rotation, only two shoot less than 45% from the field, and the Hoyas get 21 points per game off the bench.

On the starting grid, guards Jonathan Wallace, Austin Freeman and Jesse Sapp provide varying talents that mesh to give the Hoyas an effective and balanced offensive game. Wallace (Sr., 6-1, 195 lbs.) is a long-range sniper who makes 44% of his three point shots, and averages 10.5 points per outing. Freeman who moved into the staring lineup on the strength of his floor game, is averaging 11.7 points in that role, and also tops the 40% mark from long range. Sapp, a strongly built player, can take the ball to the basket or hit the outside jumper, and backs that up with a team best 63 assists. Sapp (Jr., 6-3, 210 lbs.) is also an effect defender, and can guard taller foes with great success.

Up front, the tandem of Roy Hibbert (Sr., 7-2, 275 lbs.) and DaJuan Summers (So., 6-8, 240 lbs.) often dominates inside play. Hibbert, a pre-season All-America selection and a midseason candidate for the Naismith Award, leads the team in scoring at 13.2 points per game and in rebounding at 6.6. Summers is right behind at 11 points and 5.6 rebounds per outing, and is also a surprising second on the team in steals.

There is little drop-off for the Hoyas when substitutes enter the game. In the frontcourt, Patrick Ewing (Sr., 6-8, 240 lbs.) tallies 6.2 points and 4.1 boards per contest, while Vernon Macklin adds 3.8 points and 2.2 rebounds. Macklin (So., 6-8, 230 lbs.) is a horrendous free throw shooter (18.5%), which keeps him from matching Ewing's scoring totals. Backcourt sub Jeremiah Rivers (So. 6-4, 210 lbs.) figures to get the bulk of the support time as freshman teammate Chris Wright is out with foot problems. Rivers tallies 3.0 points per outing, but can fill a variety of roles, from playmaker to scoring threat.

OUTLOOK

Yes, West Virginia will have to make its foul shots and figure out a way to keep Hibbert and Ewing from making a killing in the lane, but another factor could come strongly into play in this battle of Big East leaders.

BlueGoldNews.com
Game Info
Sat Jan 26
7:00 p.m.

WVU Coliseum
Records
WVU 15-4, 4-2
GU 15-2, 5-1
Series
GU 24-20
TV
ESPN
RPI
WVU - 24
GU - 11
That item is defense on the perimeter, and its something that both teams, but especially the Mountaineers, will have to execute well in order to come away with a win. While Georgetown has long been known for its interior prowess, it's the long-range shooting, coming off set plays, that makes the Hoyas difficult to defend. Georgetown runs a patterned offense that results in backdoor cuts and passes to the post, but if defense collapses to clog up those lanes, open three pointers usually result. Perimeter snipers like Wallace thus get open looks at the basket, and when they shoot to their abilities, there simply isn't much opposing defenses can do. The Hoyas' number three national ranking in field goal percentage speaks volumes about this efficiency.

West Virginia has struggled to defend dribblers, because it doesn't have many players with the foot quickness to stay with skilled ballhandlers off the dribble. That's not, as some state columnists say, an indication that West Virginia isn't a good team. At 15-4, the Mountaineers have talent. It's just that man-to-man defense on the ball isn't one of their strengths. Thus, WVU must figure out a way to stay with or help out against opponents on the drive, but still recover to get out on three-point shooters after playing help defense. That's a task that any team finds difficult, but without a great deal of team speed, the chore becomes even tougher. Still, WVU must have one of its better defensive games of the season, from the three-point line to the rack, if it hopes to take possession of first place in the conference.

WVU must also get one thing it has little control over – a loud and raucous crowd. The turnout for St. John's, while good in numbers, was severely lacking in the enthusiasm department. For the Georgetown game, the crowd must be into it from the start. It can't wait until West Virginia makes a run before it gets involved. There needs to be constant noise and distraction for the visitors from the outset. If the crowd sits on its hands, as it did for much of the contest against the Red Storm, it might never get off them.

INJURY REPORT

WVU: Joe Alexander (Groin) Questionable, Joe Mazzulla (Thigh) Probable

GU: Chris Wright (Foot/Ankle) Out

FAST BREAKS

West Virginia has won 15 games in a row at the WVU Coliseum, and is 39-3 under the big mushroom in its last 42 games.

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The Hoyas are solid and well-schooled on offense, but are even more impressive on the defensive end. Georgetown was ranked No. 1 in the country in field goal percentage defense, and No. 8 in scoring defense in the most recent NCAA statistics rankings.

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Cam Thoroughman and Jarrett Brown both scored their first points of the season against Marshall, which means that every member of the Mountaineer squad now has a number other than zero in the points scored column.

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West Virginia continues to have trouble guarding the ball, and Georgetown's offense, with its Princeton-like elements, will stress the Mountaineers again. Foes have used horizontal screens, where a dribbler moves from one side of the court to the other across one or more screens, to great effect against the WVU defense. As the game unfolds, watch how West Virginia defends against this tactic. Do they try to fight through these screens, or do they switch? Neither option has yielded the success Bob Huggins is looking for.

Although playing zone might be the first choice for WVU, especially when the Hoyas go big, their effectiveness at shooting the three makes it a difficult one to make. Of course, GU's ability to go backdoor against man-to-man sets that defend on the perimeter makes that choice one that is fraught with danger as well.


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