Not that teams going bombs away from deep is anything different against West Virginia in recent games. Last Saturday's home loss to DePaul saw the Blue Demons can 14 of their 30 tries from beyond the arc, a number which ultimately snapped a nine-game Mountaineer winning streak.
Tuesday night's trip to Cincinnati also matched Mike Carey's club against a team more than content to let the rock fly from deep, only this time the Mountaineers were able to match the Bearcats' 13 treys with a baker's dozen of their own.
"DePaul stayed hot for 40 minutes," Carey noted, "but Cincinnati in the second half kind of wore down a little bit."
This afternoon, however, is a horse of a different color. Sitting atop the conference lead in three-point percentage stands the Villanova Wildcats. In second? West Virginia. Expect the lane to be open, but the area behind the arc to be more crowded than a New York City subway station at rush hour.
"This is like the third team in a row that lives and dies by the three," Carey explained. "Hopefully Villanova wears down a little bit in the second half. They make the most threes in the conference, averaging 10 or 11 made per game. They take a bunch of threes."
To be exact, the Wildcats average 10.5 made three-pointers per game, nearly three more than second place DePaul (7.64). However slowing down Nova means more than just taking away the trey. Concentrate too much on the perimeter, Carey explained, and you could get beat by easy buckets via the backdoor.
"What they look for is threes and layups. You've got to get out, and they either penetrate and kick for a three, or backdoor you for a layup," said the seventh-year head coach. "That's what they're looking for offensively. We're going to have to do a good job getting out to defend. We're going to have to play them a lot in man, and it's very important that we talk and communicate on defense. If there are breakdowns on defense, its layups for them."
Thus the key for West Virginia this afternoon is simply to get stops in any way possible. Stringing together early stops and keeping the Wildcats off the offensive glass likely enables the Mountaineers to get out and run up and down the court, playing at the pace which they often prefer.
If the Wildcats do dictate the tempo with their deliberate, 30-second possessions which have often left opponents frustrated and out of sync, Carey feels that his team can adjust accordingly.
" If it's an up and down like DePaul, we have players who can do that, and if it's a halfcourt game, we have players who can do that, too," he said. "That's why this Big East prepares you for postseason because you're going to see all the different styles of basketball."
NOTE: Carey expects senior Meg Bulger to start in place of the suspended LaQuita Owens. Bulger has been coming off the bench ever since returning from a minor knee injury suffered in January. On Thursday, Carey announced Owens had been suspended for a violation of team rules, though he later clarified that the suspension is strictly related to basketball.
"Really, I don't have a lot to say other than I'm very proud of LaQuita," he said of his senior guard. "She's handled herself very well on and off the court, and it's a shame that this happened, but it did. Hopefully, we can get it corrected in the near future."