4:00 PM ET, November 15, 2009
WVU Coliseum, Morgantown, West Virginia
As he begins his third season leading West Virginia, Bob Huggins feels like he finally has the players that fit his style of basketball -- and his team's conference.With the eighth-ranked Mountaineers boasting a more rugged roster than in years past, Huggins and West Virginia open the season Sunday at home against Loyola, Md.Huggins has moved his team away from former coach John Beilein's perimeter-oriented approach, building a squad that he feels can better compete in the physical Big East -- and one that more closely resembles his brawny Cincinnati teams."You look at, for instance, Pitt a year ago with their front line," Huggins said. "We're going to be like that now."West Virginia's roster includes five players that weigh at least 240 pounds.The Mountaineers (23-12) also bring back two of their leading scorers, senior Da'Sean Butler and sophomore Devin Ebanks, in the frontcourt.Butler averaged a team-best 17.1 points in 2008-09 as the Mountaineers made their second appearance in the NCAA tournament in as many seasons under Huggins. West Virginia, though, was upset in the first round by 11th-seeded Dayton.The return of Ebanks, who averaged 10.5 points and a team-best 7.8 rebounds, helped West Virginia earn its first preseason top-10 ranking since 1963.At 6-foot-9, Ebanks is among the team's tallest players. The Mountaineers also have 6-7 Wellington Smith, who blocked 90 shots as a sophomore and could take aim at the school record of 190 this season.The 245-pound Smith gained 20 pounds during the offseason, while backup forward Kevin Jones (250) put on 35. Reserve forward Cam Thoroughman weighs in at 240.Huggins also recruited a pair of 260-pound big men in Danny Jennings and Deniz Kilicli. Kilicli will have to sit out 20 games because he played on a Turkish club team that included a professional player.The Mountaineers should also get a boost from the return of point guard Joe Mazzulla, who missed all but seven games last season with a shoulder injury. His projected backup, Darryl Bryant, was reinstated from suspension.West Virginia will have to overcome the loss of guard Alex Ruoff, who averaged 15.7 points and hit 88 3-pointers in his final season in Morgantown. Huggins, however, has brought in Casey Mitchell, the national junior college player of the year, and Dalton Pepper, the Pennsylvania player of the year.The new-look roster will be tested well before the start of play in the Big East, a conference that features four other ranked teams. The Mountaineers will face Clemson or Texas A&M in the 76 Classic on Nov. 27 in Anaheim and could play UCLA, Minnesota or Butler two days later in the same tournament.They also host Mississippi on Dec. 23 and travel to Purdue on New Year's Day. In the middle of its conference season, West Virginia takes on Ohio State on Jan. 23 and wraps up conference play with a potential regular-season title showdown at Villanova on March 6."It's great preparation for March," Huggins said. "Hopefully the more you experience things, the better you'll be able to adapt to them."Loyola (1-0) defeated Vermont 79-66 at home Friday night as Brett Harvey scored a team-leading 23 points and went 5 of 7 from 3-point range.The senior guard was second on the Greyhounds last season with 12.4 points per game and led the NCAA in free-throw percentage at 91.0.Loyola also returns junior guard Jamal Barney, who led the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference with an 18.1-point average. The Greyhounds could also get a boost from 6-10 Maryland transfer Shane Walker.This is the first meeting between Loyola and West Virginia.
|Avg Points Allowed||66.1||63.8|
|Conference||Patriot League||Big 12|
|» Nov 15, 2009||@WVU 83, L-MD 60||Recap|