COLUMBUS, Ohio (Rusty Miller/AP) Almost anything can happen when fifth-seeded West Virginia takes on fourth-seeded Maryland on Sunday night for a spot in the Sweet 16.
Just don’t count on the Mountaineers – and their straight-shooting coach Bob Huggins – changing what they do.READ MORE: Baltimore County Police Release 911 Calls In Woodlawn Shootings Saturday
“We play one way all year,” point guard Juwan Staten said Saturday. “We haven’t really changed up how we play for anybody. So why start now?”
The Mountaineers (24-9) followed form in smothering Buffalo 68-62 on Friday in their opening game. As usual, they were everywhere on defense, trapping and chasing all 94 feet. Devin Williams had 17 points, Staten 15 to go with seven assists and Daxter Miles Jr. added 10 points.
The Terrapins (28-6) recognize that they may have to adapt to what the Mountaineers do rather than having it the other way around.
“West Virginia plays a style that we haven’t seen all year,” said coach Mark Turgeon, who used extra defenders in practice earlier this week to try to simulate the Mountaineers’ clawing, cloying D. “So we’ll have to prep for that. It’s that time of year. You give guys some information and prepare for them for certain things and hopefully you play well.”
As it usually does, Maryland relied on its versatility and depth in holding off Valparaiso 65-62. Melo Trimble had 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Dez Wells and sub Jared Nickens had 14 points.
“They can all handle the ball, but I don’t think, full court, like they are comfortable doing that,” Mountaineers senior guard Gary Browne said of the Terps. “We’ve got to make sure we keep the ball away from their guards and make other guys make all the decisions.”
Here are some things to watch when the representatives of the Big 12 and Big Ten square off:
A FROSH SHALL LEAD THEM: Trimble is one of the top freshmen in the country, with 31 double-figure scoring games while averaging 16.5 points.
The way he describes how teams have defended him seems to be a blueprint for what the Mountaineers will try.
“They try to blitz the ball screens and pretty much not let me have the ball back once I give it up,” said Trimble, the fifth-leading scorer in the Big Ten and tops in free throw percentage (.865). “Pretty much try to frustrate me, be physical with me and try to take me out of my game.”
PAST PERFORMANCE: The teams have some history, although none of it is recent.
They have met 37 times but Sunday will just be the second meeting in the last quarter century.
The only time they have played in an NCAA Tournament was in 1984 in a second-round game in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Terrapins got 19 points from center Ben Coleman and 18 apiece from forwards Herman Veal and Len Bias in a 102-77 victory in which they shot 67 percent from the field and hit 30 of 36 free throws.
OFF THE CUFF: Huggins was referred to as “abrasive” in a headline in the local newspaper on Saturday morning and it clearly was on his mind: “I’ve expressed my opinion strongly enough. Actually, I may be abrasive. I think that’s the word that’s been bantered around now. Isn’t it a shame in today’s world you can’t tell the truth? If you tell the truth, you’re abrasive. If you lie, you’re charming.”
HEALTH ISSUES: West Virginia did not have leading-scorer Staten (knee) or substitute guard Browne (ankle), the only Mountaineer with NCAA experience before this tournament, for its last few games before Friday’s win.
But both played and showed no ill effects. Browne showed up at a news conference Saturday afternoon with an ice pack taped to his left ankle.
PACE OF PLAY: It’s not as simple as it might seem – that West Virginia wants to use its fullcourt pressure to speed up the game and that Maryland would prefer to play in a halfcourt set. But the Terrapins can play uptempo as well.MORE NEWS: Baltimore Police Respond To Officer-Involved Shooting
“They like to play high octane and like to force turnovers,” Terps swingman Dez Wells said. “We’ve done a great job of taking care of the ball in those kinds of situations.”