The agreement between the Big 12 and Big East to play the Big East-Big 12 Battle games each year is giving the West Virginia University men’s basketball team opportunities to reconnect with their old conference rivals.
Last season WVU played a physical game against St. John’s in Madison Square Garden last season, and this season the No. 11 Mountaineers will take on Georgetown for the first time since 2014.
The West Virginia (3-1) and Georgetown (1-1) basketball programs were very familiar with one another until recently. As members of the Big East, the Mountaineers and Hoyas played one another every year from 1996 until WVU left the conference in 2013. Even after departing the conference, the two were not apart for long, meeting in the first round of the NIT in 2014.
The Mountaineers are relatively the same hard-nosed, physical, grind-it-out team they were all those years ago under coach Bob Huggins. The Hoyas, however, look a bit different these days. NBA Hall-of-Famer Patrick Ewing has taken over the team from the legendary John Thompson, who passed away earlier this year, and has made the Hoyas more perimeter-focused.
“They’re perimeter-oriented. That’s seemingly the wave of the future, you have one big and four perimeter guys,” Huggins said Friday.
In two games this season, Georgetown is averaging 29 three-point attempts. Although, quantity seems to have overtaken quality as the Hoyas have only made 17 of them (29.3% shooting).
Georgetown’s leading scorer is Jahvon Blari, who averages 20 points per game. The senior guard is shooting 37.8% from the floor, but just 21.1% from three. Jamorko Pickett (13.5 points per game) and Donald Carey (10.5) are the Hoyas’ other top perimeter players.
One might not expect a team coached by an old-school big man like Ewing to play from the perimeter so much, but Huggins said Ewing is just doing what all coaches do — trying to win.
“You know what everybody learns when they go from taking the uniform off to sitting in the first chair? You try to win, man,” Huggins said with a wry smile. “You’re going to try to put the five guys out there that give you the best opportunity to win.”
The Hoyas do have a stand-out big man, however, in 6-11 center Qudus Wahab. The Nigerian sophomore averages 14 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. As a team, Georgetown rebounds it well. They have averaged 48 rebounds in the first two games and five players average at least five per game.
WVU and Georgetown will tip-off at 4:30 p.m. Sunday in Washington D.C. The game will be broadcast on FS1.