Any look at Western has to start with freshman All-America guard Kevin Martin (6-7, 185). Martin is averaging 27 points per game, and will be returning to the Catamount lineup after missing the North Greenville game with an illness.
Joining Martin in the backcourt is senior guard Kori Hatcher (5-9, 165). Hatcher has been running the team effectively, averaging almost four assists per game while scoring almost nine per contest himself.
On the front line, Western features forward Terrence Woodyard (6-9, 185) and Alex Osipovitch (6-9, 225), along with center Rans Brempong (6-8, 200). Woodyard is the most accomplished scorer of the three, averaging nearly 11 points per contest. Osipovitch is something of a jack of all trades, who can shoot and rebound with equal proficiency. Brempong, who returned to the lineup after missing the first two games of the season, averages a steady 7.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per outing, but is not the most physical of players.
The Catamounts figure to go deep on their bench, with as many as 11 players expected to see acton. Chief among the subs is center David Berghoefer (6-10, 220), who is averaging 7.7 points and 5.5 rebounds in less than 20 minutes of action per game.
WVU guard Jo Herber vs. WC forward Kevin Martin
Herber likely won't draw man to man duties against Martin, but when WVU is in their favored 1-3-1 zone, Herber's wing position will often match him up against the slick-shooting sophomore.
WVU 5-1, 0-0
WC 3-3 , 0-0
|Wed 12/18 7:00 PM|
WVU - 60
WC - 319
WVU's 1-3-1 puts the wing defenders in position to either trap or force offensive players away form the basket to receive passes. In this contest, expect more of the latter. The further Martin has to go outside to get the ball, the less effective he is likely to be. Herber will also likely try to use his greater strength against Martin, especially if the WCU star takes the ball inside.
One thing Martin does not do well is rebound, as he averages only three per game. This could be a big help in WVU's battle on the boards with Catamounts.
On the offensive end, look for the Mountaineers to go at Martin and force him to play defense more than usual. Although the WVU offense is keyed around attacking a defense in a team manner, it won't be surprising to see Herber, Tyrone Sally and Drew Schifino try to take the ball to the basket a bit more than usual.
The Catamounts are taller than some Big East teams, although admittedly not as big or physical. However, their height advantage will again challenge West Virginia on the boards, where the Mountaineers were outrebounded by 12 against Wofford.
Of special concern is offensive rebounding - the Cats can send five different players at 6-7 or taller to the glass. WVU gave up 17 offensive rebounds to the Terriers on Wednesday, when only a 78% second half shooting percentage kept the Mountaineers in the game.
WVU, of course, will pay special attention to Martin, but Western has other weapons. The Cats feature balanced scoring past Martin, with seven players averaging between five and nine poitns per game. That sets up an interesting strategic question -- does WVU try to take Martin out of the game, or "yield" his points while trying to shut down the rest of Western's attack?
Western is averaging 86 points per contest, so it's obvious that they are not just a one man team. The combination of WVU's 1-3-1 zone and intricate offensive patterns should be an interesting challenge for the Catamounts, who have yet to play a team of WVU's stature this season.
Each game seems to offer the Mountaineers a different type of challenge. This mid-week matchup will force WVU to play solid defense and not put Western on the free throw line. If West Virginia can accomplish those tasks while continuing to improve their offensive efficiency, they should be able to improve their record as well.
For the second time this year, guard Jay Hewitt has left the team, and this time it appears to be permanent. Hewitt will likely transfer to a Division II school, possibly Radford.
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Martin isn't the only good free throw shooter from Western -- as a team, the Catamounts are shooting 76.4% from the free throw line.
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Western Carolina Alum Ronnie carr holds the distinction of hitting the first three point shot in NCAA history. The initial trey came on November 29, 1980.
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The WVU game is the first of a Mountain State doubleheader for Western Carolina, who travel to Huntington for a Friday contest against Marshall.