Men's Basketball, Sports, WVU Sports

Battle of the bigs: Jesse Edwards, Joel Soriano a major focus in WVU-St. John’s game

MORGANTOWN — If the game plays out like Josh Eilert expects, there will be some good and bad news today for WVU center Jesse Edwards when the Mountaineers host St. John’s.

The good news: Edwards — the Mountaineers’ imposing man in the middle standing 6-foot-11 and 240 pounds — will likely not be doubled- and triple-teamed by the Red Storm, as he has for much of this season.

“Based on what I’ve seen on film, they’re probably going to believe they can handle Jesse one-on-one,” Eilert explained.

The bad news: There’s a big reason why St. John’s coach Rick Pitino feels that way.

Enter Red Storm center Joel Soriano, a 6-11, 250-pound man, whose stats (16.2 points, 10.3 rebounds) are just as impressive as Edwards’ 15.8 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.

“They haven’t shown a lot of doubles,” Eilert continued. “They probably believe going into it that Soriano can hold his own against Jesse. It’s going to be a good match-up. Those are two really good bigs and it’s going to be fun to see them battle.”

The battle of the two giants tips off at 7 p.m. Friday in the WVU Coliseum, in the annual Big East-Big 12 Battle.

Eilert’s theory then set up the next question: Can Edwards, too, hold his own and keep WVU players from double-teaming Soriano?

“I think Jesse will do fine with Soriano,” he replied. “They have a lot of ways to attack you, so you have to be careful what you do defensively if you do send a double at them. I don’t anticipate Jesse having too many problems, but (Soriano) does present a challenge in terms of getting Jesse in foul trouble.”

Both players rank in the top 20 nationally in rebounding and they are two of just 24 players in the country averaging a double-double on the season.

“It’s going to be a great battle,” WVU forward Quinn Slazinski said. “I’ve been able to watch them both closely. Obviously, wearing a West Virginia jersey, I bet on my side every day, but it’s going to be a great matchup.”

Soriano down low is not Eilert’s only concern. Much like SMU did earlier this season, St. John’s is expected to pressure the Mountaineers full-court with the hope of wearing WVU down.

Little things like simply inbounding the ball will not come easily against the Red Storm’s pressure.

“We’ve got to be poised and steady and we can’t get rattled,” Eilert said. “That was the same message against SMU. You end up burning eight or nine seconds just to get into your offense. Any chance they get, they’re going to put the pressure on our guards and make it taxing on us to get the ball down the floor.

“It’s very taxing, especially when you don’t have the correct depth to attack it. So, we’re relying on one or two guys to do that the entire game.”

TWEET @DominionPostWV