MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia’s present for its double-digit win over ninth-ranked Georgetown on Saturday afternoon is another difficult assignment tonight facing Connecticut at the XL Center in Hartford.
“We’ve got to do a great job of absorbing the scouting report and really studying film,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins.
The Huskies (12-3, 2-2) were stung by a 67-60 loss at Rutgers on Saturday night, four days after losing by 14 on the road at Seton Hall.
Before that, UConn had risen to eighth in the polls after winning 12 of 13 games, including solid out-of-conference wins against Florida State, Arkansas and Harvard.
Last Saturday against Rutgers, however, the Huskies turned the ball over 20 times - nine coming on Rutgers steals - and shot just 25 percent in the second half after leading the Scarlet Knights 30-28 at halftime.
Turnovers have been a major problem for Connecticut, particularly in conference play, the Huskies turning the ball over at least 13 times in all four Big East games so far this year.
Leading scorer Jeremy Lamb fouled out of the Rutgers game after scoring just 8 points in 24 minutes of action. Lamb, a 6-foot-5 guard from Norcross, Ga., is averaging a team-best 18.7 points per game, is shooting 51.3 percent from the floor, and has also made a team-best 36 3-point field goals.
Backcourt mate Shabazz Napier shows averages of 14.7 points and 6.2 assists per game, but also leads the team with an average of 3.4 turnovers per game. Napier came off the bench to score 18 in Connecticut’s 65-56 loss to West Virginia in last year’s game played in Morgantown.
If the Huskies can hang on to the basketball they have one of the biggest front courts in all of college basketball to utilize with seven players on their roster standing 6-foot-8 or taller, including 7-foot-1 Enosch Wolf, 6-foot-10, 270-pound freshman Andre Drummond, and 6-foot-9, 240-pound junior Alex Oriakhi.
Drummond, the No. 1 high school prospect in the country, opted to graduate high school a year early to attend UConn and has played in all 15 games, starting 11, and shows averages of 9.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Drummond’s best game so far this year was a 24-point, eight-rebound performance in Connecticut’s 77-40 victory over Holy Cross.
Oriakhi is a guy Mountaineer fans are familiar with, the junior averaging 6.6 points and 4.7 boards per game while starting 12 of 15 games.
“They are 7-1, 6-10 … they’re just so big,” said Huggins. “We’ve played against size before but we haven’t played against that kind of size. Someone said to me ‘Baylor’s length’ and this and that and I said, ‘Well, they’re not Connecticut.’ They may be long but they don’t have the girth and the strength that Connecticut has.”
Guard Ryan Boatright, who briefly made a verbal commitment to West Virginia, has appeared in nine games for the Huskies and is averaging 10.6 points and 3.4 assists per game. Boatright is shooting 47.1 percent from the floor.
The Mountaineers (12-4, 3-1) are coming off outstanding shooting efforts against Rutgers and Georgetown, hitting better than 50 percent of their field goal attempts in both games.
Senior forward Kevin Jones scored 22 points and grabbed 16 rebounds against Georgetown and continues to lead the Big East in scoring (19.8 ppg.) and rebounding (11.9 rpg.).
Senior Truck Bryant, named Big East player of the week for the second time this season, is coming off a 25-point performance against Georgetown to boost his season average to 18.4 points per game. Bryant is averaging 24.8 points in West Virginia’s four Big East games so far this year.
Six-nine junior forward Deniz Kilicli is averaging 10.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
West Virginia has not fared well at either Storrs or Hartford, going 0-8 overall including an 0-3 record in games played at the XL Center. The Mountaineers’ most recent game against the Huskies in Hartford came in 2010, a 73-62 UConn victory.
Connecticut has a plus-15 margin of victory against West Virginia in its home games against the Mountaineers.
Overall, Connecticut leads the series 14-5 with current Husky coach Jim Calhoun going 14-4 against the Mountaineers. Calhoun is 4-2 in games played against Huggins, including a 3-2 mark since Huggins’ arrival at West Virginia.
Tip off for tonight’s game is set for 7 p.m. The contest will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
Following tonight’s game, West Virginia is back at the WVU Coliseum this weekend to take on Rutgers in a 2 p.m. Big East game that is also Varsity Club reunion weekend for former Mountaineer players. Those WVU players and staff members interested in attending can contact WVU Varsity Club Director Dale Wolfley at (304) 293-9563 for more information.
West Virginia Mountaineers, Connecticut Huskies, Big East Conference, ESPN2, Bob Huggins, Jim Calhoun
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