WEST VIRGINIA GAME NOTES | VILLANOVA GAME NOTES
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Two young teams still searching for their identities will meet Wednesday night when West Virginia plays host to Villanova at the WVU Coliseum to open Big East Conference play.
West Virginia (9-3) is coming off an 83-81 overtime loss to sixth-ranked Baylor in the Las Vegas Classic last Friday night. Senior Kevin Jones scored 28 points and grabbed 17 rebounds against the Bears, one night after scoring 16 points and grabbing 13 rebounds against Missouri State. Jones began the week with 25 points and 14 rebounds against Tennessee Tech to earn Big East player of the week honors.
“KJ is a lot like the guys I’ve had in the past,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “To me he’s a lot like Jason Maxiel. They used to send two guys to block out Maxiel. A lot of our offense is generated off the offensive glass and certainly he’s the main guy.”
Jones is leading the Big East in scoring (21.0 ppg.) and rebounding (11.9 rpg.) and is ninth in the conference in field goal percentage (56.5 percent). He had his eighth double-double and his seventh 20-point game of the season against Baylor.
“He’s going to get a lot more focus,” said Huggins. “Everybody is going to come in and their game plan is to keep KJ off the glass.”
Truck Bryant is coming off a 16-point performance against Baylor and is now averaging 16.3 points per game for the season. He has scored double figures in all 12 games so far this year.
Junior Deniz Kilicli, who has been slowed by a hip-pointer sustained in the Missouri State win, is averaging 11.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. However, Kilicli was limited to just 15 minutes of action against Baylor, scoring 7 points and grabbing two rebounds. Huggins is not sure how much he will get out of Kilicli Wednesday night against Villanova.
“We went this morning and he wasn’t very good,” said Huggins. “He tried but he wasn’t very good. I’m not going to play guys who can’t play. If he can’t get reps he’s not going to know what’s going on.”
The Mountaineers have gotten sporadic play from freshmen Jabarie Hinds, Gary Browne and Aaron Brown – sometimes really good and sometimes not so good.
Hinds scored 18 and handed out seven assists in the loss to Baylor after going five straight games without scoring double figures. Browne and Brown combined to score 27 points in the Missouri State win and the next night against Baylor the two failed to score.
Gary Browne has a pair of double-digit scoring performances and a 12-rebound game against Alcorn State to his credit, while Aaron Brown has had three double-figure scoring nights and is shooting a team-best 48.3 percent from 3.
“We’ve just got to get them more consistent from an effort standpoint,” said Huggins of his talented freshmen. “You’re not always going to make shots but we can’t keep taking plays off. We get things going our way and then we take a couple of plays off and all of a sudden we let everybody back into the game.”
The Mountaineers are averaging 77.2 points and are outscoring their opponents by an average of 10.9 points per game.
Speaking of scoring 70 points, 70 points seems to be the magic number for Villanova to win games this year. The Wildcats are is 6-1 this season when scoring 70 points or more, continuing an impressive streak that started last year when they went 17-2 in games when they scored at least 70 points.
“It’s the same stuff, penetrate and pitch, shoot a lot of 3s and shoot 3s in transition,” said Huggins.
Villanova (7-5) has lost to St. Louis, Santa Clara, Missouri, Temple and St. Joseph’s primarily because it wasn’t able to hit shots. The Wildcats are shooting just 42 percent for the season, including on 31.1 percent from 3-point distance.
“When they shoot it well they’re really good,” said Huggins.
Dominic Cheek and James Bell are Villanova’s top two 3-point shooters with 19 each, but Bell is shooting in the mid-30s from behind the arc and Cheek is making only 29 percent of his 3-point tries.
Leading scorer Maalik Wayns, who averages 17.4 points per game, is also struggling from 3 hitting just 27 percent of his 3-point tries. Still, Villanova’s offense goes through him, says Huggins.
Consequently, Villanova has had to compensate for its cold outside shooting by crashing the glass. The Wildcats have pulled down 160 offensive rebounds so far this year and are out-rebounding their opponents by nearly seven boards per game.
Center Mouphtaou Yarou leads Villanova with an average of 8.5 rebounds per game – 35 of those coming on the offensive glass. He is second on the team in scoring averaging 12.9 points per game and is shooting 51 percent from the floor.
“Yarou is playing really well for them,” said Huggins. “He’s kind of become their (Dante) Cunningham and their (Antonio) Pena - a guy who can step out to 15 feet and make face-up shots,” said Huggins.
Cheek is also averaging double figures at 11.5 points per game, although he his shooting just 39 percent from the floor for the season.
Villanova is one of the top free throw shooting teams in the country, hitting better than 75 percent of its free throw tries this year.
In Villanova’s most recent game against American on Dec. 22, the Wildcats got 12 points off the bench from Wayns, who was battling a flu-like virus and did not start the game, to win its seven game of the season, 73-52.
JayVaughn Pinkston, a former McDonald’s All-American who was suspended for most of last season, scored 12 points and grabbed four rebounds. The 6-7 forward has been playing better of late, supplying 10 points and seven rebounds in the loss to Missouri and is averaging 8 points and four rebounds over his last five games.
Guard Darrun Hilliard, a 6-6 freshman, is Villanova’s top player coming off the bench with averages of 7.0 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.
“They’re athletic and their bigger than what they’ve been,” said Huggins. “They can shoot it from the perimeter but they’re bigger, stronger, better rebounding guys.”
The Wildcats are 6-0 at home this year and 1-5 in games played away from home, including an 0-2 mark in true road games.
Villanova holds a 22-19 advantage against West Virginia while Wildcat coach Jay Wright is 5-7 against the Mountaineers, although Villanova managed to snap its four-game losing streak at the Coliseum in its most recent appearance, 82-75, in 2010.
Wednesday’s game will tip off at 7 p.m. and will be televised on the Big East Network.
In recognition of Bob Huggins’ 700th career win achieved last Thursday night against Missouri State, tickets for youths and seniors are specially priced at $7 and can be purchased at the gate prior to game time.
All other tickets can be purchased in advance either online through WVUGAME.com or by calling the Mountaineer Ticket Office toll-free at 1-800-WVU GAME.
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