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By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
December 21, 2005
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – When John Beilein pops in the Oklahoma tape and starts analyzing Kelvin Sampson’s team, he sees a lot of similarities with those old Georgetown teams with big, physical, in-your-face defenders.
“Their length will be a problem for us and their quickness,” Beilein said earlier this week. “We’ve just got to hope that we can shoot the ball well enough to stay in the game and if we stay in the game hopefully we can win it.”
No. 7-rated Oklahoma is 6-1 so far this year following a 68-54 home win over Southern last Saturday. The Sooners lone defeat was an 85-74 decision at Villanova on Dec. 3.
Veteran Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson has been using a three-guard, two-forward lineup this year with four starters averaging double figures. Six-nine senior center Taj Gray is averaging 14.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game while 6-foot-8-inch, 270-pound forward Kevin Bookout is averaging 12.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
“They’ve got a nice inside-outside package. Either through great freshmen recruiting or a juco replacement here or there they’re always good,” Beilein said.
Out on the perimeter 6-3 junior guard Michael Neal and 6-4 senior guard Terrell Everett each average 11.4 points per game. David Godbold, a 6-5 sophomore, is averaging 5.9 points and 3.3 rebounds per contest.
“Bookout is 270 I think and he’s about 6-8, 6-9 or something like that. Taj Gray is not 270, but he’s a great rebounder,” said Beilein. “I think they’re top 10 in the country and they’re as good as we’re going to play this year according to the polls.”
Beilein admits his biggest concern is handling Oklahoma’s pressure defense that is allowing just 57 points per game.
“Their defense is going to be a huge problem for us,” Beilein said. “They really, really can guard you and to score points we’re going to have to be efficient with what we do. Hopefully we create some matchups for them that are difficult as well.”
West Virginia has had 12 days in between games to clean up some things that Beilein says he hasn’t had a chance to address in the early part of the season. The Mountaineers are coming off an 88-66 win over Duquesne on Dec. 10 to improve their record to 6-3.
“We do an awful lot of stuff and I think everybody knows that. At times this year we’ve not been good at any of it and at other times we’ve been very good,” Beilein said. “We need to maybe close that margin on the number of things that we know what we’re doing but we haven’t been executing that well.”
West Virginia expects to once again use the same lineup against Oklahoma it has all season, with Frank Young and Mike Gansey at forwards, J.D. Collins and Joe Herber at guards, and Kevin Pittsnogle at center.
Gansey is averaging 21.3 points over his last seven games and comes into Oklahoma City averaging a team-best 19.3 points per game. Pittsnogle recently moved into 22nd place on the WVU career scoring list with 1,234 points and is averaging 18.1 points per game. Gansey and Pittsnogle are the only two players averaging double figures.
Patrick Beilein is averaging 8.9 points per game coming off the bench and Herber is averaging 8.2 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.
Beilein is looking for more production from his bench, specifically from talented sophomore guard Darris Nichols.
“Earlier in the year he didn’t have the same confidence for some reason that he did after how well he played in the NCAA tournament,” said Beilein of Nichols. “It has been a little bit of paralysis by analysis. He seemed to not be reacting the way he should be reacting to things. That’s why he’s been playing (late) in some of these games right now just to get the old feeling back.”
Beilein hopes it comes soon.
“He made big-time shots in big-time games last year,” Beilein said. “This year he hasn’t shown the confidence and the swagger that we’d like him to have as a sophomore.”
Nichols is averaging just 3.4 points per game and is shooting just 29.4 percent from the floor.
The West Virginia-Oklahoma game is part of a college basketball doubleheader at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City. The first game of the O’Reilly Auto Parts All-Star Classic features Oklahoma State facing Tennessee.
West Virginia’s game is slated to start at 8 pm ET and will be televised nationally on ESPN2 (Brad Nessler and Fran Frashilla).