Preview: Georgetown

Preview: Georgetown

West Virginia travels to Georgetown for an early Saturday meeting that will saddle one of the teams with a third conference loss.

SCOUTING THE HOYAS

Georgetown features a lineup of players capable of playing multiple positions offensively, which perfectly fits its offense, with elements of both Princeton-style screens and backcuts and motion-oriented sets. While that typically results in good offensive production, the Hoyas have been limitied to 55 and 58 points in their two Big East losses to Notre Dame and St. John's, and are still looking for more consistent scoring from its front court.

On the perimeter, head coach John Thompson III has few complaints about his starting trio of Austin Freeman (6-3, 225) , Jason Clark (6-2, 170) and Chris Wright 6-1, 205). All three are veterans in the Georgetown program, and their comfort level translates to the ease with which they operate in the system. Freeman, averaging a team-best 18.3 points per game, shoots the ball well from all locations on the court, hitting an impressive 55.4% from the field and 46.6% from three-point range. He caps that with an 84% mark from the free throw line, and is difficult to guard because he rarely makes mistakes or bad decisions. He's complemented by Clark, who adds 13.3 points per game, and who also knows his role and doesn't force shots. Clark has been succssful on 51% of his attempts from the field, giving the Hoyas one of the most accurate backcourt tandems in the league.

Making Georgetown even more difficult to defend is Wright, who keys the offense and orchestrates an attack that typcially ends in a good shot. He's dished out 93 assists so far this year, and has a better than 2-1 assist to turnover ratio. He has still found time to add 12.7 points per game to the mix, and although he isn't as accurate as Clark or Freeman, he must still be accounted for on the offensive end. Of the three, he would be the choice to leave open on the perimeter, but allow him too many chances and he will make opposing defenses pay.

Freeman, Clark and Wright all play on the north side of 30 minutes per game, leaving spot substitution duty for backups. Vee Sanford (6-3, 180) and Markel Starks (6-2 175) are getting the majority of those, with each averaging almost nine minutes per outing. Sanford, a sophomore, is starting to mesh nicely, and has taken advantage of his recent minutes by shooting more than 60% from the field over his last nine games. For the season, he is averaging an even 4.0 points per outing. Starks, a freshman who is still being introduced to the rigors of conference play, has not been much of a scoring threat, and is the lone struggling shooter at the guard spot. His job as he gets acclimated to collegiate life is to provide rest for starters and protect the ball. In those tasks he's been effective, recording ten assists and five steals against six turnovers to date.

BlueGoldNews.com
Game Info
Sat Jan 8
11 AM EST

Allstate Arena
Records
WVU 9-4, 1-2
Georgetown 12-3 1-2
Series
GTown 26-23
TV
ESPN2
Sirius/XM: 113/203
RPI
WVU - 13
Georgetown - 1
On the front line, Julian Vaughn and Hollis Thompson hold down starting roles, and while both have been solid, neither is the go-to scoring threat of Hoya big men of the past such as Jeff Green and Greg Monroe. Vaughn (6-9 250) does the tough work in the lane, averaging 8.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, including a team best 38 on the offensive end. He's a relentless worker on the glass, and converts a number of his boards into second-chance points. Thompson (6-7, 205) chips in 8.6 points per fame, but he's almost as likely to range out to the three-point line as he is to shoot from closer in. He has hit 17 of his 37 3-point attempts, and has scored almost as many points behind the arc as he has inside it. He still manages to hit the boards as well, grabbing five per outing.

The Hoyas deploy three subs along the front line to give them more size, and a bit of a different look from their starting lineup. Jerrelle Benimon (6-7, 240) Nate Lubick (6-9, 240) and Henry Sims (6-10, 230) average between 13 and 17 minutes per fame, and all are more comfortable close to the basket. Sims is the most producrive in terms of raw stats, averaging 4.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game, and has also contributed 13 blocked shots to the defensive cause. Benimon (2.4 points, 2.2 rebounds) and Lubick (3.6 points, 2.9 rebounds) don't have standout numbers on their own, but put them together, and their backup roles are quite solid. None of the three are long range shooters, but give Thompson more post threats and the ability to roll to the hoop after screening in Georgetown's patterened offense.

Reduced scoring threats on the inside and a propensity for more turnovers have sent the Hoyas to two early Big East losses, but by no means are they out of the running for a top level finish in the conference. Any team that can shoot the ball as well as Thompson's troops (they average 51.7% from the field) is going to be a threat to win any game, and if they can improve their turnover ratio and play a bit more consistently on defense, they should be able to forge another strong league finish.

OUTLOOK

Due to contrasting styles, West Virginia - Georgetown games have been interesting studies over the past couple of seasons. WVU has won the last three games in the series on the strength of their defense, which has disrupted the Hoya offense and limited them to a pair of 58-point outings. Given West Virginia's defensive struggles this year, however, it's not easy to predict a similar outcome in 2011. The Mountaineers' use of a 2-3 zone in recent games worked against teams without strong outside shooting threats, but that's not likely to be effective against a team featuring four players that shoot better than 40% beyond the arc. While WVU will start out in its typical man-to-man look, it won't take many back door cuts and open lay-ups to send Bob Huggins in search of a better option. The 1-3-1 of past years could get another look, but as West Virginia lacks the length on the perimeter and a mobile big man in the middle to cut down on dribble penetration, that option might be sketchy as well.

West Virginia can counter on the opposite end by getting the ball inside to Deniz Kilicli, Kevin Jones and John Flowers, but it needs to get that attack working more quickly than in previous games. WVU can't afford to fall behind the Hoyas early and allow them to establish rhythm on the offensive end, and it certainly doesn't figure to be able to win a 3-point shooting contest with the home team.

With each team at 1-2 in the league, this game shapes up as an early tone-setter for the rest of the month. The winnner evens its league record and moves up to at least mid-pack in the standings, while the loser drops down to acocmpany the DePauls of the league, at least temporarily. Winning on Georgetown's home court is something that the Mountaineers have become accustomed to in recent visits, but this trip will be a very difficult one for a Mountaineer team that could use some momentum.

INJURY REPORT

WVU: None

Georgetown:

FAST BREAKS

Former Mountaineer star Darryl Prue remains a fixture on the Georgetown staff. the 1990 graduate of WVU is now in his fifth season on the Hoya campus, and is currently the Director of Basketball Operations.

* * *

West Virginia has won three games in a row in the Verizon Center, but only one of those wins came over the Hoyas. WVU defeated Georgetown, 75-58, on Jan. 22, 2009, but it's prior two wins came in the first round of the 2008 NCAA tournament. In that event, the Mountaineeers defeated Arizona, 75-65, and Duke, 73-67. The Mountaineers are 3-7 all-time against the Hoyas in the Verizon Center.

* * *

While the Hoyas earn notoriety for their offensive system, they have been excellent defensively as well. IIn the last four years – spanning the team's last 150 games – only 34 opponents have shot higher than 45 percent from the fi eld against the Hoyas. Georgetown is allowing foes to shoot just 41.6% from the field this year, and only three teams (Coastal Carolina, Missouri and Temple) have topped the 45% mark this season.

* * *

Senior forward John Flowers is seventh on WVU's career blocked shots leaderboard with 116. He trails sixth-place Tim Kearney by three. D'or Fischer remains WVU's all-time leader with 190 blocks -- a total that he recorded in just two years of action.

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