Chuck Landon: West faces big challenge at LA Tech
Mongoose vs. cobra.
Taxpayers vs. IRS.
Moonshiners vs. revenooers.
They are natural-born adversaries.
But now it’s time to add another adversarial relationship to the list.
Jarrod West vs. DaQuan Bracey.
Marshall University’s West, 5-foot-11, 185-pound sophomore guard, and Louisiana Tech’s Bracey, 5-11, 174-pound junior guard, are the proverbial cat vs. dog in the Conference USA basketball kingdom.
Although the two guards are the same height, West is stronger and more physical, while Bracey is quicker. West is defensive-oriented, ranking No. 2 in C-USA with 2.2 steals per game and 62 overall. Bracey is the motor that drives LA Tech’s offense, averaging 15.1 points and 4.0 assists.
They are polar opposites that will collide head-on when Marshall takes on Louisiana Tech at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Ruston, Louisiana.
“Bracey is a tough player,” said West. “Obviously, he’s been in this league producing for a long time. He was rookie of the year and, then, last year he was really good when we played them. And he’s hot right now.”
Is he ever.
Bracey had 25 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals in Louisiana Tech’s 89-80 overtime win over Marshall on Jan. 24. Besides all that, it was Bracey who drove the length of the court with five seconds remaining for a layup that sent the game into overtime.
More recently, Bracey was named C-USA’s Player of the Week on Feb. 18 after averaging 25.5 points in two home wins. Bracey is the main reason LA Tech has a 15-0 record at home.
“He’s quick,” said West. “He knows how to play. He finishes at the rim. He’s a good passer and creates for others. My responsibility in guarding him will be just to contain him. Keep him in front of me and make him score over top of me, not get clear blow-bys at the rim.
“We have to do a good job of corralling him in transition because in transition that’s where he’s really good ... one-on-one and transition. As quick as he is and as explosive as he is, he’s tough to stop in transition.
“So, we’ve just got to do a good job of corralling him in transition and keeping everything in front to make him score over the top or make him pass through people.”
Bracey wants to take defenders off the dribble. That’s where he excels.
But West excels at not allowing that to happen.
“Exactly,” said West. “He’s not a good 3-point shooter (only 31 treys), but he’s good at getting you leaning off the dribble. He has very good hesitation and he’s a very good ball handler.
“And he has very good ball skills to create space and help him get to the rim. I’ve just got to do a good job of keeping him in front and make sure I can keep my spacing with him and not let him get in my space to get by me.”
Under the circumstances, this is an ultimate challenge for West.
“Exactly ... for sure,” said West. “As hot as he is and as well as they’ve been playing and what is at stake in these next four games, everybody knows how important this game is. I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited for it. It’s going to be a great challenge.”
It’s a natural-born rivalry.
It’s why West and Bracey play.
And it’s why we watch.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.