A clash of styles will play out on the Coliseum floor tonight as West Virginia prepares to host Virginia.
On one side, is the frenetic pace of the full court press used by the Mountaineers, while the Cavaliers employ a pack-line defense and a methodic offensive approach. One wants to slow you down, the other speed you up and the one that dictates pace of play will typically have success.
Virginia is known for its defensive mentality that forces opponents to take jump shots by clogging the inside and protecting the pain to prevent dribble penetration or shots at the basket. But while it’s the defense that has been the trademark of Tony Bennett’s program, it’s the other end that stands out to West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins in regards to what Virginia does.
“They control the game with their offense. What happens is you don’t want to go down and play defense for 30 seconds and take a shot in five seconds and then go back and play defense,” he said. “It’s kind of like running the ball in football. Controlling the clock.”
The Mountaineers would prefer for things to be played at a much quicker pace and in the past two meetings have been able to get the Cavaliers playing to their liking – just not enough.
“They are hard to speed up, but we got them sped up last year. We had them sped up the year before a little bit, but you can’t make bonehead plays,” Huggins said. “Two years ago we made some really bonehead plays. You don’t want a whole lot of separation because then it becomes harder.”
West Virginia is going to try to make ball handlers that aren’t accustomed to handling the ball do just that and force the Cavaliers out of their comfort zone. Trying to dictate the tempo and limiting offensive rebounds will be key as well.
"Hopefully the press will get some turnovers and make them play fast, make them uncomfortable," sophomore guard Chase Harler said.
West Virginia won last year’s meeting in Charlottesville 66-57, while it fell at Madison Square Garden the year before 70-54 in a game that featured a now infamous behind the back pass attempt.
The Cavaliers are led in scoring by sophomore Kyle Guy at 16.6 points per game, while senior guard Devon Hall is the only other player in double figures at 11.8 per contest. While they don’t have the experienced point guard they did a season ago, the product looks much of the same.
“They are good. They are pack line on defense and moves and blockers on offense,” he said.
But ultimately it’s going to come down to what it ultimately comes down to.
“Who makes shots and who doesn’t make shots,” Huggins said.
Tipoff with the undefeated Cavaliers is set for 7 p.m. and for now Huggins has other concerns outside of what Virginia will attempt to do to frustrate his team.
“These guys frustrate me. If I had anymore frustration, I wouldn’t be able to handle it,” he said of his own team.