The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

December 8, 2012

Old rivals VT, WVU to play today

MORGANTOWN — A revived Virginia Tech basketball program invades the Coliseum for an important 4 p.m. battle with West Virginia University today, and if coach Bob Huggins has his way, it won’t be for the last time.

The teams, long-time rivals that go back to Huggins’ playing days, are operating under a two-year agreement after the series ended when Virginia Tech left the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“I’m all for the series being extended,” Huggins said. “I can’t speak for them. We played for 50-some consecutive years, then stopped playing.”

This, of course, is a transitory time at WVU as the team has moved from the Big East to the Big 12.

“I don’t know why we don’t continue to play Pitt and why we don’t play Virginia Tech. Why don’t we play the people we played all these years and have such great tradition with?” Huggins said. “The place is sold out tomorrow.”

And it’s sold out for a reason. WVU comes in off a hotly contested victory over Marshall that almost erupted into a free-for-all, while Virginia Tech comes in unbeaten at 7-0 and ranked as the No. 3 scoring offense in the country.

That, of course, sets up the timeless offense vs. defense setup, Virginia Tech averaging 86.1 points a game and led by Erick Green, a guard who also is third in the country in scoring at 24.9 points a game.

WVU gives up an average of 66 points a game, so something has to give.

When someone asked Huggins what he does when he runs into a high-powered offense like the Hokies, his answer was revealing.

“Honestly, you could ask them what they do when they run into a team that guards like we guard,” he said. “I think we will do a better job of guarding them than anyone else they’ve played. If we don’t we’re in trouble, but I think we’ll do the job.”

In truth, this is the way Huggins plays the game.

“I’ve said this a thousand times, generally speaking, we take people out of what they want to do. The truth is, we took Gonzaga out of what they wanted to do, but they were really, really good with throw and replace,” he said.

Gonzaga, of course, annihilated the Mountaineers in the season opener, one of their three losses in what is now a 3-3 season.

“We’ve taken everyone out of their sets. We just haven’t done a very good job guarding them when the floor gets spread,” Huggins said.

Huggins gets some big-time help for today’s game as the six-game suspension of newcomer Volodymyr Gerun is up and he’s eligible to play. The native of the Ukraine was sitting out because he had played professionally overseas.

At 6-10, he is the tallest of the Mountaineers, and it is said he is a strong outside shooter.

“The best thing he does is shoot the ball,” Huggins said. “We don’t really have a pick-and-pop guy, and I think he can do that.”

The Mountaineers’ biggest problem has been shooting the basketball, especially from 3-point range. They are hitting only 40.6 percent of their shots and just 23 percent from 3-point range, making good on 20 of them in the first six games.

Against Marshall, they failed to make a 3 until there was nine minutes left in the game and took only six 3-point shots, almost ending a streak of 428 games in which they hit a 3.

The men’s game will be followed by the women’s game against St. Bonaventure at 7:30 p.m.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

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