WVU beat the Friars 77-65 two weeks ago. Since then, Tim Welsh's team has had nearly one week off after facing Georgetown on Monday. PC lost at home to the Hoyas 68-58 to drop to 13-13 and 4-10 in the Big East, meaning it will be fighting for a league tournament berth as West Virginia (18-8, 7-6) continues to try and revive dying NCAA chances. The Mountaineers are currently tied for seventh in the Big East with Pitt and could win the tiebreak if they can defeat the Panthers at home later this year. Still, the 78-56 loss at Villanova on Thursday makes this game the second time West Virginia will play Providence after getting beaten by more than 20 points. Before the first meeting, Cincinnati dropped WVU 62-39 in the worst home defeat to an unranked team since 1930.
"We can't let other people take the fight to us like we did Wednesday night," Huggins said. "Wednesday night we got ourselves in a hole and they came out and were really physical with us. We didn't respond. We need to do a better job of being ready to go all the time. I thought we were ready to go the prior week. We came out pretty strong and then Wednesday night for whatever reason we didn't."
The Mountaineers will likely fair better against Providence, among the lesser physical teams in the league and one that lacks a marquee inside threat. In WVU's 12-point win in the initial meeting between the teams it made more than half its shots. A 33-25 rebounding edge completed the dominance. But Huggins is worried that Welsh will switch things up significantly in game two. The Potsdam State grad used a man defense in the first game, but has increasingly pressured teams in the last five games. Providence is just 1-4 in those outings, but that came against DePaul, St. John's, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Georgetown.
"Tim changes things," Huggins said. "They played us with a good bit of man. They've played a lot of zone here of late. They didn't really press us much up there until the end. They are 2-2-1 pressing a lot more now. I think we all change things to a degree. (In the last game) we were concerned more with (Geoff) McDermott because they run everything through him. He had a good game. He scored off penetration a lot and they pitched it to him and he did a good job finishing."
So a common thought would be that the Mountaineers would focus more on shutting down the 6-8, 235-pound forward. But with the approach working in the first game, there is little reason to shy from that game plan until Providence proves it can play WVU well at home. Providence is just 1-7 in true road games this year and it has not won at West Virginia since 1999. This year is the first time the two teams have played a home and home series since 2005, when the schools also met in the Big East Tournament as well.
"You don't feel very comfortable after you lose," Huggins said. "It's kind of a bad feeling and you have this bad taste in your mouth. (WVU's players) aren't any different than anybody else. They just try to get that bad taste out of their mouth."
The WVU women's team will play Villanova at 4 p.m. as the first part of the double-header. No tickets remain for the Providence game, though there are good seats available for the women's gane.
Note: Cam Thoroughman could return to the line-up. The 6-6 redshirt freshman forward saw significant minutes against Pitt and Providence and jumpstarted a run that changed the entire game against the Friars. But after the forward has not played in the last three games after spraining his ankle. Thoroughman practiced Thursday and today, though he is still limping somewhat. He could be inserted for short stretches.