Huggins: Walker one of the best in Big East
WVU, UConn tied for seventh in Big East standings
Published: Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, March 1, 2011 21:03
The West Virginia men's basketball team is a squad that scores by committee.
The Mountaineers' opponent tonight, however, takes a different approach.
Led by National Player of the Year candidate Kemba Walker, Connecticut will visit the WVU Coliseum at 7 p.m. tonight with a first-round bye in the Big East Conference on the line.
Both teams enter in a four-way tie for seventh place in the conference with a 9-7 record. The top eight teams earn the bye to the second round, and if the Huskies are to do so, it will be because of Walker.
The Big East's second leading scorer enters averaging 22.8 points-per-game and has only been held under 10 points once this season during UConn's loss to Syracuse on Feb. 2.
"I'm not sure how you guard him," said WVU head coach Bob Huggins. "We are going to try and do a few different things. You can't just let him go crazy, but you can't let him get his and help his teammates along the way."
In last year's upset victory over then No. 8 WVU, Walker converted 14-of-17 free throws attempts on his way to a game-high 21 points.
The junior also averages 4.5 assists and is in the top five in the Big East in steals and turnover margin.
"He very well could be the National Player of the Year," Huggins said. "He has the speed and quickness, but he also has a great understanding of the game and the ability to read defenses."
Another player the Mountaineers must keep an eye on is Alex Oriakhi. The 6-foot-9 sophomore forward is averaging 10.1 points and 8.5 rebounds.
Huggins called Oriakhi the "best offensive rebounder in the league."
"He is big, strong and athletic," he said.
The Huskies are one of the league's worst shooting teams, shooting just 42.9-percent from the field, but rely heavily on defense and rebounding, especially offensively.
Behind Oriakhi's 3.8 offensive rebounds-per-game, the Huskies are the Big East's top offensive rebounding team. UConn is second in the conference in league in field goal percentage defense, allowing teams to shoot just 39.3 percent from the field.
"They have great size," Huggins said. "Jim has always taken a good bit of pride in his team's ability to rebound the basketball."