A lengthy layoff didn't hurt West Virginia when the new AP poll was announced this week. It's hoping its next opponent won't pose much of a risk to the team's highest ranking in more than 27 years.
The sixth-ranked Mountaineers look to stay undefeated Wednesday night when they host Duquesne.West Virginia (5-0) hasn't played in a game that's counted since an 84-66 win over Portland in the 76 Classic championship game in Anaheim, Calif., on Nov. 29. Having maxed out the number of non-conference opponents they can face, the Mountaineers scheduled an exhibition game against the University of Charleston on Saturday, beating the Division II school 81-48.West Virginia shot 53.6 percent and was led by Deniz Kilicli, who scored a game-high 18. The freshman forward is ineligible to play in the first 20 games after the NCAA determined he violated an amateurism rule.Forward Devin Ebanks started and finished with two points -- attempting just two field goals -- over 18 minutes. Ebanks missed the first three games because of undisclosed personal problems.An all-Big East rookie selection as a freshman, Ebanks has scored 14 points in each of his first two games off the bench, but he shot 4 of 13 against Portland."Devin's not Devin yet," coach Bob Huggins said.Kevin Jones continues to step up for West Virginia, averaging 12.6 points and 7.0 rebounds. He finished with 14 points and seven boards in 18 minutes against Charleston.While the win over Charleston didn't count in the standings, West Virginia still moved up from No. 7 in the poll. It's the highest ranking for the Mountaineers since Feb. 23, 1982, when they were also ranked sixth.West Virginia is looking to improve to 7-0 for the first time since winning the first 10 games of the 2004-05 season.Duquesne (6-2), which opened the season with four straight wins, is coming off a 58-44 victory over Savannah State on Saturday, bouncing back from a 67-58 double-overtime loss to Pittsburgh three days earlier.Eric Evans scored 17 while Damian Saunders added 15 for the Dukes, who outscored Savannah 27-13 in the first half.Evans went 6 of 9 from the field after shooting 17.6 percent (3 of 17) in the loss to Pittsburgh. The sophomore guard, averaging 9.0 points, is shooting 27.3 percent."We really got an efficient game from Eric," coach Ron Everhart told the Dukes' official Web site. "We're trying to get him to understand that no matter what the numbers are, you have to be efficient."After losing Melquan Bolding to a fractured right wrist in the season opener, Duquesne has been led by Bill Clark, who is averaging 17.4 points. The Dukes, though, rely primarily on their defense, holding opponents to 61.6 points and only allowing one to shoot better than 40 percent.Last season, Duquesne beat its first top-10 team since 1992 when it defeated then-No. 9 Xavier 72-68 on Feb. 7.West Virginia has won six straight over Duquesne, taking the last three at home by an average of 16.0 points. The Mountaineers lead the all-time series 48-36.