UPDATING THE HOYAS
West Virginia has won five in a row, including a win over Georgetown. The Hoyas, since that game, are a perfect 4-0. One of those streaks comes to an end tonight – and much of that will depend upon how the teams are able to defense each other. The Mountaineers didn't need to game plan for Austin Freeman, GU's leading scorer at 16.8 points per game. The junior guard, by far Georgetown's best shooter (53% overall, 45% 3pt.), missed the March 1 contest after being diagnosed with diabetes. He returned for the tournament, and has played just as well recently as he did before the diagnosis, which isn't expected to keep him from any playing time from here onward. Freeman, listed as 6-3 ½, 227 pounds, is a dynamic scorer inside and out, and can used his strength and bulk o push past defenders and into the lane. He is more a shooter than a passer, though in head coach John Thompson III's Princeton-like offense, every player is unselfish and distributes well. Freeman is also making 86 percent from the foul line, and as a swingman is likely to draw Da'Sean Butler. WVU's top player is a bit slower than Freeman, and might lack the quickness to keep him out of the lane, so help on defense is a must. This is the toughest individual backcourt assignment in Big East play for the Mountaineers, made more difficult because this season they have seen Freeman only on film. His counterpart at point, Chris Wright (6-1, 208 lbs.) made seven of 18 shots in the first series meeting this year to score 21 points, one off the team high. He also dished seven assists, three above his season average. Truck Bryant and Joe Mazzulla need to be aware of his abilities both as a shooter from anywhere and his knack for finding cutters and dumping the ball inside or out on drives. He isn't the toughest or most physical player either has faced, so getting a body on him will be a key to limiting his game. Too, Wright at times gives up drives of his own on defense, so challenging him there is likely to be beneficial. Point guard Jason Clark (6-2, 170 lbs.) doesn't score as well as Freeman or Wright at 10 points per game, but the sophomore rarely takes a bad shot and is making 48 percent from the field, 43 percent from three. He doesn't garner the defensive attention of the others, and so often times has much better looks at the bucket. Clark had just five points against WVU earlier this year, and turned the ball over six times. The Mountaineers' length seemed to bother him, and staying active with hands and feet could again lead to some miscues from the two spot.
The interior issue is Greg Monroe (6-11, 247 lbs.). The surefire All-Big East Tournament pick averages a double-double at 16 points and 10 rebounds and was the reason Georgetown ‘upset' Syracuse in the tournament quarterfinals. A sophomore, Monroe passes extremely well out of the post and has shown great maturity, basketball acumen and patience playing along the low block out to the elbow. He can finish around the rim, hit the short jumper and defend adequately, as his 49 blocks show. He isn't the strongest or most physical player, but his skillset allows him to be a much more effective than simply bullying around the basket. Fifth starter Julian Vaughn (6-9, 247 lbs.) hits for seven points and four boards per game. His job is usually to clean up anything on the inside, or pop open for good looks in the paint. He doesn't shoot well from outside, but leads the team at 57 percent inside the arc. He has taken 60 fewer shots than any other starter, though, and is the fourth to fifth option for the Hoyas. Thompson has settled into essentially a seven-man rotation with reserve forwards Hollis Thompson (6-7, 205 lbs.) and Jerrelle Benimon (6-7, 242 lbs.). Thompson is the better shooter and scorer and plays 20 minutes. He will take any decent look at a three, where Benimon's game is inside. The latter has shot just 30 times all year, and is a minutes-stealer. Guard Vee Sanford (6-3, 180 lbs.) plays about seven minutes per game. He is settling mainly for threes (13 of 23 shots) and isn't making much. He can score from the line though, and passes decently.
|Sat. March 13
9 p.m. EST
Madison Square Garden
WVU 26-6, 15-5
GU 23-9, 13-8
|Sirius Channel: 91 (203 XM)|
WVU – 4
GU – 7
There isn't much of a secret here. Georgetown wants to run through its Princeton-like offense, using cuts and a series of passes to free shooters and Monroe on the inside for attacks toward the rim. West Virginia guarded the backcut well in the regular season meeting, and will need to do the same tonight. The Hoyas won't be able to free Monroe as easily on the low block against WVU's man set as they did versus Syracuse's 2-3 zone. But the backcuts and openings off them will be more available, so it's a tradeoff of better interior chances against the Orange and likely higher quality outside shots against the Mountaineers. Freeman's return looms large, but this is a team West Virginia matches up well against. It has length to GU's size, has better depth and benefits from the Hoyas lack of forcing turnovers in their defensive set. The Mountaineers need to limit second chances and guard the perimeter much better than it did against Notre Dame. Look for Kevin Jones to be effective inside, as he will need to be if Butler cools a bit. Devin Ebanks also needs a good outing in the Big East final, and an unselfish one in which he plays within the system and doesn't have lapses. The latter point holds for West Virginia as well. It staved off a couple of physiological lapses in this tournament already. Another against the Hoyas could prevent WVU from capturing its first Big East postseason championship.
WVU has won 15 of its last 21 games at Madison Square Garden and 10 of its last 15 Big East Tournament games. The Mountaineers lost to Georgetown in the 2008 league semifinals.
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West Virginia will try to win its first postseason league championship since 1983-84, when it won the Atlantic-10 title. It has won a total of 12 league titles (10 Southern and two A-10).
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West Virginia's 26 wins set a school record for victories in a single season. WVU has 15 road wins, also a school record.
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Huggins now has 75 wins at West Virginia. He has won nine postseason tournament championships in three different leagues.
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WVU is 22-0 this season when holding foes to less than 70 points.
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Da'Sean Butler needs four points to become the third player in West Virginia University history to reach 2,000 or more career points (Jerry West, Rod Hundley).
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Kevin Jones has set the school single-season record for offensive rebounds with 115, breaking Brian Lewin's 1997-98 mark of 113.