By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
January 12, 2010
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Ninth-ranked West Virginia remains on the road to take on South Florida Wednesday night at the Sun Dome in Tampa. Last Saturday night, West Virginia dropped a 70-68 decision at Notre Dame.
USF (10-5, 0-3) is searching for its first win in Big East play after opening with losses to Louisville, Notre Dame and Syracuse.
“We need a win and wins are not easy to come by in this league,” said South Florida coach Stan Heath.
Most recently at Syracuse guard Dominique Jones scored 30 points and forward Mike Mercer added 13 in an 82-65 loss to the Orange.
“When you look at Syracuse and the length that they have in the back line of their defense, it forces you to shoot a little quicker and it forces you to put a little more arc on your shot,” said Heath. “It changes your shot and psychologically as time goes on, I think it makes you think that you have to shoot a little deeper than you normally would.”
Heath anticipates similar match up problems with West Virginia, which has used big lineups in previous games this year.
“The difficulty with West Virginia is at times they can put five guys up there that are 6-7 or better across their lineup,” said Heath. “They do a lot of switching and they create a lot of match-up problems and those are things we need to overcome.”
Jones has had good games against West Virginia in the past, pouring in 35 in a 62-59 loss to the Mountaineers in Morgantown last year and scoring 18 in a 64-50 Bulls loss in Tampa.
The junior is averaging 18.9 points per game and is shooting 48.7% from the field.
“We are going to need to be able to shoot the ball,” said Heath. “Our last game we were not able to knock down shots and that is a big part of having success. You have to be able to defend, but you also have to be able to make some perimeter jump shots. Earlier in the season we were doing that, but lately we have struggled in that area.”
Some of USF’s recent woes can be related to the absence of 6-10 sophomore center Augustus Gilchrist, who has been out with a severely sprained ankle suffered against Hampton back on Dec. 2. Gilchrist was averaging 18.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game at the time of his injury.
“It is a delicate injury,” said Heath. “The way it happened is very severe, but I think the biggest thing is the swelling has really gone down. Those ligaments have to heal up and that is the next stage for him. He is much further along but I can’t put a finger on when he will return.”
Six-eight freshman Toarlyn Fitzpatrick has stepped into the lineup in place of Gilchrist and is averaging 4.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. He scored a season-high 11 points twice this year against Hampton and Louisville.
Jarrid Famous, a 6-11 junior center, is averaging 11.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Famous has scored 16 points three times this year against South Carolina, Kent State and Hampton, and shows six double figure rebounding games, including a season-high 12 boards in the loss to Syracuse.
“The previous two games before Syracuse I thought Jarrid and Toarlyn were very effective,” said Heath. “I thought they weren’t as aggressive and effective in the last game against Syracuse and we need those guys to play at a high level.”
Heath also started 6-5 senior guard/forward Mike Mercer and 6-3 senior guard Chris Howard last Sunday against Syracuse.
USF shows early season wins against SMU, Virginia, Davidson and Kent State.
Meanwhile, West Virginia (12-2, 3-1) remained in the Top 10 in both polls despite its two-point loss at Notre Dame last Saturday night.
The Mountaineers fell behind by 22 points before making a late rally that ended when Da’Sean Butler missed a 3 with two seconds left that would have won the game for West Virginia.
Butler scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds, but made just 4 of 20 shots against the Irish. Kevin Jones led West Virginia with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while guard Truck Bryant added 11.
The Mountaineers’ third-leading scorer, Devin Ebanks, failed to score against Notre Dame, going 0 for 4 from the floor in 19 minutes of action.
West Virginia and South Florida have played some tight games in the past. Last year, the Mountaineers eked out a 62-59 victory in Morgantown and four years ago in 2003 West Virginia outlasted the Bulls, 57-53, in Tampa. Overall, West Virginia has a 5-1 record against South Florida, including a 5-0 mark since the Bulls joined the Big East.
South Florida’s lone win in the series came on Dec. 10, 1977 in Tampa, an 80-71 USF victory.
Tip off is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised on the Big East Network. The game will air locally on WCHS (Charleston), WOAY (Oak Hill/Beckley), WTOV (Steubenville, Ohio), WVFX (Clarksburg), WTAP (Parkersburg), WPCW (Pittsburgh) and WJAL (Eastern Panhandle).
MSN’s radio coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with the Coliseum Countdown.
Butler has been struggling of late to find his shooting stroke, however, going 16 for 50 from the floor in his last three games against Notre Dame, Rutgers and Purdue. For the season Butler is shooting 45.5%.
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