By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
January 25, 2010
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – No. 9 West Virginia returns to the road to face DePaul Tuesday night in a Big East matchup at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill.
The Blue Demons (8-11, 1-6) recently snapped their 24-game regular season Big East losing streak against Marquette last Wednesday, and are now 1-3 under interim coach Tracy Webster since the dismissal of Jerry Wainwright on Jan. 11.
Webster was part of Wainwright’s staff overhaul last April and has assistant coaching experience at Kentucky, Illinois and Purdue.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said DePaul is still doing a lot of the same things it did when Wainwright was running the program.
“They’re playing a little bit more 2-3 zone, but I don’t think there is anything significantly different,” said Huggins.
In last Wednesday’s 51-50 victory over Marquette, the Blue Demons were able to hold Marquette to just 41.5% shooting and outscored the Golden Eagles 25-18 in the second half.
“They’ve got some guys that are very capable of making shots,” said Huggins of DePaul. “When they get it going, they’re pretty good.”
West Virginia will have to be extra careful with senior guard Will Walker, who scored 31 against the Mountaineers last year and put 35 on the board against Notre Dame in last Saturday’s 87-77 loss to the Irish.
Walker took 30 shots against Notre Dame and is averaging a team-best 16 points per game with 40 3s.
“He’s getting his shots. They’re running things for him but they’re always running things for him,” Huggins said. “It’s the same things. They’re running the baseline runner for him. They may be ball screening for him a little bit more, but it’s basically the same things.”
Walker teams with 6-1 sophomore Jeremiah Kelly in the backcourt. Kelly leads the team with 59 assists. It’s one of the smaller backcourts West Virginia will face in Big East play this year.
“Sometimes size bothers smaller guards anyway,” Huggins said. “I think we did a pretty good job when Ole Miss came in with smaller guards. I think our guys are used to guarding smaller guys.”
DePaul has been looking for some inside scoring help with 6-foot-10 junior center Mac Koshwal out with a right foot injury. Koshwal was averaging 15 points and 11 rebounds per game when he went down in the Villanova loss on Jan. 6. At the time of his injury, he was expected to miss about a month.
Six-nine Devin Hill and 6-11 Krys Faber have gotten most of the minutes in the paint. Hill is averaging 6.6 points and 3.7 rebounds per game while Faber shows averages of 2.3 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.
Six-six Eric Wallace (6.8 ppg.) is expected to start at small forward with 6-5 Mike Stovall DePaul’s top reserve. Stovall is averaging 7.1 points per game and scored 14 in Saturday’s loss to Notre Dame.
West Virginia (15-3, 4-2) resumes conference play after stepping outside of Big East action to get a pair of quality non-conference wins over 15-4 Marshall and 14-6 Ohio State.
The Mountaineers trailed Ohio State by 12 at halftime before scoring 12 of the first 14 points of the second half on the way to a 71-66 victory over the Buckeyes at the Coliseum. Slow starts have been a recurring theme for West Virginia recently.
“When you think about some of the slow starts we’ve had and the holes we’ve put ourselves in, I think we’ve become very resilient,” said Huggins. “You look at the second half of the Notre Dame game, the last minute and a half or so of the Syracuse game, the second half of the Ohio State – and really we kind of let Marshall get all of the momentum going Wednesday night. I think they’ve proven to be very resilient.”
Huggins would prefer not to test his team’s resiliency Tuesday night at DePaul.
“We’d like to start a game off a little bit better,” Huggins said. “They’re going to play man and they’ve got really good size inside. And we’re going to have to attack some 2-3 zone."
West Virginia shot the ball a little better against Ohio State, particularly in the second half (48.7%), but overall the Mountaineers are shooting just 44.7% as a team through 18 games. That’s ninth in the 16-team Big East.
“The crux of the problem has been our offense. We’ve had some defensive breakdowns, but I think the crux of the problem is that we haven’t shot the ball very well,” Huggins said. “Some of that is due to executing but the reality is we have had pretty good shots. You can’t go back and look at the tape and say, ‘We just took God-awful shots.’ We haven ‘t. We’ve taken pretty good shots.”
Da’Sean Butler bounced back with a pair of strong performances last week against Marshall and Ohio State. Butler scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds in the Marshall win, and added 21 points and eight boards last Saturday against Ohio State.
Butler is now averaging 16 points and 6.1 rebounds per game and is now 56 points shy of cracking West Virginia’s top five in career scoring occupied by Rod Thorn with 1,785 points. Butler is also 19th in career rebounding with 679.
Sophomore Kevin Jones is averaging 14.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, Devin Ebanks shows averages of 11.3 points and 7.9 rebounds, and Truck Bryant is averaging 10.7 points and now leads the team with 29 3-point field goals.
Tipoff is 8:30 p.m. The Big East Network will televise the game in these markets: Pittsburgh (FSNP), New York (SNY), Chicago (WCIU), Florida (Brighthouse), Baltimore (MASN), Kansas City (Metro) and New Orleans (Cox). The game will also be available on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com.
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