Georgetwon is big. Again. The Hoyas have six players who stand six feet eight inches or taller, and five of them see regular action in the Hoyas' ten man rotation.
Starting on the front line are all league forward Mike Sweetney, center Wesley Wilson and freshman forward Brandon Bowman. Sweetney uses his special combination of bulk and agility to average 20.2 points and 8.9 assists per contest. Those are numbers he expects to exceed against WVU, which may need a bulldozer to get him out of the lane.
Wilson and Bowman don't put up the numbers that Sweetney does, but provide a nice complement, as well as an imposing defensive presence, to the Georgetown front line. When you throw in subs Courtland Freeman and Victor Samnick up front, you get a five man rotation that is tough for any team in the nation to match up with. Georgetown has blocked 62 shots and is holding opponents to 37.6% shooting from the field, and much of the credit for those numbers is due to the defensive minded players in the paint.
The guard position might appear to be the spot of vulnerability in Georgetown's lineup, where they were most affected by the loss of all around threat Kevin Braswell. Guards Gerald Riley and Tony Bethel, however, have become dangerous scoring threats this year, averaging almost 25 points per game between them. Riley is hitting 52.9% of this three pointers, so WVU defenders will have to be aware of his presence, especially when the ball goes inside.
Subs at guard include Drew Hall, Ashanti Cook and Darrell Owens. Cook is something of a sixth starter, as he plays more minutes than either Riley or Bethel. He's also the team's playmaker, racking up 43 assists in just over 24 minutes per game.
There aren't many surprises with this year's Georgetown team. They are physically imposing, they pressure the ball, and they pound the boards relentlessly.
One thing that is a bit different about this team is their accuracy, especially from the free throw line, which has not been a area of strength for them in some past seasons. This year's team is hitting 72 percent of their free throws, so putting them on the line is not a strategy that has been successful.
WVU will likely be playing much more zone than man to man against the Hoyas, but no matter the defense, Schifino will end up having to battle a player with at least a 5-6 inch height advantage. Schifino will obviously give up a few scores in the post when matched up against Bowman, but that son't be the difference in the game. What will make a difference is Schifino's rebounding.
WVU 9-3, 1-0
UM 8-2, 0-0
|Sat 1/12 2:00 PM|
GU leads 20-17
|TV: ESPN Regional
ESPN Full Court
WVU - 81
GU - 87
|Line: GU -14|
To win this battle, Schifino will have to concentrate on positioning and low body leverage to keep Bowman out of the paint.
Of course, it won't matter if officials continue their trend of not calling over the back fouls on Mountaineer opponents, but we'll talk more about that in the next section.
Schifino can also help his own cause by making Bowman work hard on the defensive end, which is usually a given for anyone facing the sophomore scoring machine. If Schifino can force Bowman to cover him away from the basekt, he could be able to get him into a running and chasing game that will tire him out on the offensive end. The key to that strategy is Schifino hitting a couple of jumpshots early in the game. If he can make Bowman respect his outside shot, he could force him into an open court battle that would be to WVU's advantage.
The rebounding battle and WVU's defense against Georgetown's inside game is getting its proper attention, but another factor that isn't is West Virginia's offense against the Hoya defense. John Beilein and his staff are more about what their team can do to opponents rather than stopping what opponents can do to them. It's the kind of aggressive approach that has put West Virginia in position to win a couple of big games this year.
For the Mountaineers to gain their first road victory on an opponent's home court, West Virginia must not only protect the ball as they did against Miami's pressure, but also shoot well enough from the perimeter to get Georgetown away from the basket. A repeat of Tuesday's 6-21 performance from three point range probably won't be enough to achieve that goal.
One other player to keep an eye on in this contest is Mountaineer guard Joe Herber. Herber has scored only five points in his last two games, so he might be at the point of slipping under the radar of opponents' defensive preparations. Herber will probably never be a big scorer, but he has the ability to knock down jumpers when left alone, and also can create scoring opportunities off the dribble.
A final item to keep an eye on will be Georgetown's state of mind, especially early in the contest. The Hoyas had one of the easiest schedules in the country before losing to Duke earlier this week, so ti will be interesting to see how they respond to that loss, and also to playing the second best foe they've seen this year.
WVU's records list the Hoyas as leading the season series 20-17, but Georgetown says their lead is only 19-18.
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Georgetown's entire coaching staff, including their strength coach and video coordinator, are Hoya alumni.
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From the excellent research done by Bryan Messerly and the WVU Sports Information Department comes the note that Kevin Pittsnogle's 55.6 shooting percentage from three-point range would put him as #2 all time in season behind Vernon "smooth as a Canadian sunset" Odom. If Pittnogle breaks into the top ten, he would be the only non-guard on the list.