Bob Huggins owns John Calipari, as the pundits say. The Huggie Bear is 8-1 lifetime against Calipari. UK fans still cringe when they look back at the masterful coaching display the Huggie Bear put on when his team advanced past one of the most talented Cats teams ever assembled in the Regional Final last year.
So, how do you beat WV this year?
1) Speed the game up and dictate the tempo. WV is athletic and can fast break when the opportunity arises, but their bread and butter is defense and offensive rebounding. If WV keeps their opponent in the 50s or low 60s, they win. Clemson has been the only team to score more than 71 points against WV and still lose.
2) Take advantage of the mismatches at guard. WV is thin at the guard position and relies heavily on PG Joe Mazzulla. Mazzulla is a crafty and shifty player, with an outside shot that is limited by a surgically reconstructed shoulder. However, if you allow Mazzulla the space to methodically work the ball and penetrate seams in the defense (as he did effortlessly in last year’s game), the Cats could go home early again. Coach Cal should watch last year’s tape and consider more full court pressure with Liggins and Knight rotating on Mazzulla from end to end.
3) Get an early lead. WV shoots 42% (33% from 3). The team has not shown a consistent ability to score in bunches and struggles when it plays from behind. Get an early lead, keep making baskets and WV’s offense will fade.
4) Box out. Yes it is fundamental cliché, but WV crashes the offensive boards hard and scores a lot of second chance points. They are as physical as any team in the Country, and not only will Harrellson have to bring his “A” game, but Jones, Liggins and Miller will need to step it up a notch in the rebounding department while avoiding fouls. 6-8 WV Forward Kevin Jones has been on a tear with double doubles lately and it will not be a good sign if he continues his recent trend.
5) Shoot WV out of the zone. Huggie bear is a man to man guy, but with his current roster, he calls for a lot more zones against faster athletic teams. WV will likely employ some variation of a physical 1-3-1 zone defense. It killed UK last year and forced the Cats to throw up a lot of rushed 3 pointers out of frustration. However, with good ball movement, the zone does allow for open shots, and the Cats have to hit them. This Cats team has been one of the best overall outside shooting teams Coach Cal has ever put together. If his team hits near its season average from the outside, WV goes home early. (3pt % as of 3-18-11: Lamb-47%; Miller 45%; Liggins 41%; Knight 39%; Jones 31%)
Make no mistake, this match-up for the Cats has the potential to become a low-post war. The Cats need to start hot, keep scoring and make outside shots. If the Cats get a lead, keep scoring, and hit their season mark (76 ppg), they should win this game by 5-10 points. However, if WV dictates its style as Princeton did, and pounds the glass hard, the Huggie Bear monkey on Coach Cal’s back isn’t going anywhere.go back