Cowboys’ backcourt will give WVU problems
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 23:02
Slowing down talented guards who have the ability to score the basketball in a lot of different ways hasn’t been the easiest thing for the West Virginia men’s basketball team to do this season.
A team’s opposing guard has scored at least 15 points on the Mountaineers 23 times this season, and of those 23, nine have eclipsed the 20-point plateau.
Playing against WVU has seemed to bring the best out of some players this season, and as the Mountaineers prepare for a crucial final stretch of the regular season that might not be a good thing.
Especially with a team like Oklahoma State coming into Morgantown this weekend.
Of all the teams the Mountaineers have faced this year – with the exception of Michigan and Kansas – the Cowboys have possibly the most talented backcourts.
The combo of junior guard Markel Brown, sophomore forward LeBryan Nash and freshman guard Marcus Smart has combined to average 44 points per game.
For a comparison of how impressive that is, West Virginia as a team is scoring just 66 points per game.
The Cowboys have also gotten a big boost off the bench from Phil Forte, a freshman who played with Smart in high school, who is scoring 11 points per game off the bench.
While it’s been Kansas freshman Ben McLemore who has gotten a lot of attention as one of the best first-year players in the country, Smart has been able to use his versatility to emerge as one of the best players – regardless of class – in the country, and Brown has become one of the Big 12 Conference’s best scorers.
It’s likely the Mountaineers will come out with a similar game plan to defend the talented Oklahoma State backcourt that they used when they fell to the Cowboys in Stillwater, Okla., earlier in the season.
Brown led the way for the Cowboys scoring 24 points while being guarded primarily by sophomore guard Gary Browne. Point guards Jabarie Hinds and Juwan Staten switched off guarding Smart, and freshmen Eron Harris and Terry Henderson were on Nash.
And even though Nash was mostly a non-factor in the scoring column, finishing with just two points in 25 minutes, Forte was a vital part in the Cowboys winning the game. He scored 26 points, shooting 6-of-11 from beyond the arc.
The Mountaineers will have to be able to contain the damage done by the Oklahoma State guards in order to have a chance to win this game Saturday.
They’re beginning to run out of time to pick up wins because the 13-13 Mountaineers aren’t only in a position where they are desperate to pick up good resume wins to try to make a run at stealing an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament, they’re in a do or die situation to just earn a spot in the NIT.
Since the NIT changed its rule to allow teams with losing records in its field of 32, no team has finished the regular season below .500 and made it into the field.
Getting a win Saturday could be the first step in ending a disappointing season on a strong note.
If not, West Virginia could be in jeopardy of not making a postseason tournament since the 2002-03 season.