Marshall's offense begins with unrepentant shooter Ronald Blackshear, who will put the ball up from anywhere on the court. Blacksher has taken 100 more shots than any of his teammates. The results are usually good, as Blackshear hits an outstanding 42.4% of his three point shots, and 90% of his free throw tries.
Blackshear is joined in the upgraded Herd backcourt by A.W. Hamilton, who has started every game since becoming eligible after transferring from Wake Forest. While Hamilton isn't a great scoring threat, he has run the Herd offense well and provides a good counterpoint to Blackshear's offensive minded game. Monty Wright is a jack of all trades at the third guard slot, averaging more than ten points and three assists per outing. Wright is a difficult player to defend, as he can both score and distribute the ball with equal ability.
Ronny Dawn is the main player off the bench in the Herd backcourt, providing backup playmaking skills as well as a deadly 60% shooting rate from three point range.
On the front line, Ardo Armpalu doesn't shoot often, but when he does, he makes it count. His 10.4 points per game average comes on just over seven shots per game. Marshall's rebounding punch comes from leaper Marvin Black (11.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg), who slashes to both the offensive and defensive boards with abandon. Transfer David Anderson and freshman Mark Patton, who has started a handful of games for the Herd, provide depth.
West Virginia center Kevin Pittsnogle vs. Marshall center Ardo Armpalu
After the Mountaineer defense has been shredded inside in recent games, the focus on interior defense falls on the young shoulders of Pittsnogle this week.
|Wed 1/22 8:00 p.m.|
WVU 9-6, 1-3
MU 8-5, 4-2
WVU leads 22-8
Fox Sports Pitts
WVU - 107
MU - 141
|Line: WVU -1|
As noted above, Armpalu is an efficient shooter, and he'll be looking to take advantage of West Virginia's undersized interior defense. When the Mountaineers are in man to man defense, Pittsnogle is the one player who can match up to Armpalu's height, if not his physical strength.
Pittsnogle must try to win this battle by denying Armpalu good position on the block, especially early in the posession. If he can do this, the Herd are likely to look elsewhere for their shots.
On the offensive end, Pittsnogle will definitely have the advantage in terms of mobility and shooting range, so the Herd may try a different defender on him. If that means substituting for Armpalu, WVU might win a tactical edge in the game, as removing Armpalu from the Herd offense would be a blow to the Marshall inside game. If, however, Pittsnogle gets off to a slow start or Armpalu can handle him, the Herd will have removed one of WVU's big guns from the contest.
MU: LaVar Carter (hand) Out
West Virginia must continue to work their offensive and defensive sets, and do so for forty minutes. The Mountaineers have shown signs of either frustration or carelessness in previous contests, allowing leads to slip away or permitting big runs from opponents. Almost always, the cause has been sloppy or inattentive offensive play, which has lead to breakdowns and scoring droughts.
On the defensive end, WVU is faced with a tough choice. The 1-3-1 or 2-1-2 zone will be tough to stay in if the Herd matches their season shooting percentage of 42.3% from three point range, but the man to man also has some potential matchup problems with Blackshear and Black. WVU head coach John Beilein says that he is more concerned with what his players are doing than with matching up with opponents or singling out a face to face battle that "must be won", but he'll have to come up with a defensive strategy to keep the Herd's shooting percentage down.
With the Mountaineers under 50% the last three games (dropping them to 48% on the year), and Marshall shooting over the 50% mark from the field for the entire season, this game will likely be decided by the team that can hold their opponent below their normal shooting rate.
Is the interest starting to wane in this game? More than 3,000 seats remained with less than a week to go before this game. A big walkup sale could fill many of the seats, but in past years this game has typically been a near sell-out.
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The Herd has long had the well-deserved reputation as three-point gunslingers, but this year they've trimmed that number. Herd opponents (249) are actually shooting more threes (213), than Marshall. WVU, in two more games, has taken 81 more threes than Marshall.
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Head coach John Beilein is 27-14 alltime in neutral court games. He is, however, 0-1 against the Herd.
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Marshall has lost all three of their televised games this year.