Here are some keys to tonight's WVU-Texas rematch in Austin:
- Keep the Longhorns off the offensive glass. Texas leads the Big 12 in offensive rebounding with 15 per game and owns a league leading rebounding margin of +7. WVU is eighth in the Big 12 in defensive rebounding and eighth in rebounding margin with a -3. Part of WVU's rebounding woes stems from the fact that Huggins plays three guards, but some of the problem is players being out of position and not blocking out. For WVU to win this game, the Mountaineers must keep Texas below its offensive rebounding average.
- If WVU can somewhat keep Texas off of the offensive glass, then WVU's transition offense is the next key to this game. WVU's guards love to score in transition and they do so in bunches. Expect Texas head coach Rick Barnes to be very aware of a dangerous WVU team in transition. How well Texas gets back on defense tonight should be a big factor in tonight's victor.
- WVU needs to win the turnover battle. WVU leads the Big 12 in turnover margin at +3.6 per game. Texas tends to turn the ball over more than they take it from their opponents (-1.7), so WVU's defensive pressure should be a key.
- WVU must keep Texas out of the paint. WVU has allowed numerous foes, including Texas in the last meeting in Morgantown, to parade to the basket for layups and dunks. WVU must make Texas shoot from the perimeter by clogging the lane. Texas makes only five 3 point shots per game and shoots 32% from 3 point land, while only shooting 43% overall. WVU must keep Texas at or below its field goal percentage tonight to come out of Austin with a big road win.
- Finally, WVU must make shots, particularly early on like they did in wins against Oklahoma and Iowa State. WVU came out cold the last time they played the Longhorns. Part of that may have been due to the letdown from barely losing at home to Oklahoma State the previous game, but give credit where credit is due. Rick Barnes has his team playing defense. Like Kansas, Texas does a great job shutting down the perimeter game. Texas leads the Big 12 field goal percentage defense at 40% per game. WVU must spread the floor and drive to the basket tonight. Eron Harris has to realize that he can't do it all himself. Lots of times, Harris tries to takeover games with penetration drives, but more often than not he turns the ball over. Let Staten, Dibo and Henderson drive and dish, while Harris and Adrian should be looking for the outlet pass.
Prediction: WVU has greatly improved in conference play. WVU will win some more games before all is said and done. This is a hard fought game that may come down to a free throw shooting contest. Yet, Texas is simply too much defensively for WVU in Austin. Defense wins games.
Texas 73 WVU 70