Game Preview: Rutgers at West Virginia

Rutgers has two straight wins against challenging conference opponents. The first came at home against defending national champion Connecticut and the second came on the road against Pittsburgh in convincing fashion. The true test of progress, however, comes Saturday in Morgantown, W.V. against a team that embarrassed the Scarlet Knights 10 days ago.

The last Rutgers game against West Virginia was an embarrassment for the Scarlet Knights in multiple ways. Since the 21-point drubbing at the RAC, however, Rutgers (10-7, 2-2) improved as much as a team possibly can in one week's time.

The improvements started last week in a 67-60 upset over No. 8 Connecticut at the Louis Brown Athletic Center and continued in a dominant victory against Pittsburgh on the road.

"This team is starting to understand out formula, understanding what I want as far as offensively, where the ball should go and the flow and the execution that we need to be successful," said head coach Mike Rice. "Defensively, a little different with our switching. We're not making so many mistakes on the defensive side and I think our pressure and our different looks and our young guys are starting to get it."

In Pittsburgh, Rutgers set multiple team records in Big East play. The 39 points and 21 percent clip for the Panthers are both the best defensive efforts in conference play in Rutgers history.

For Rice, however, the rebounding stood out. Rutgers pulled down 16 more baords against Pitt, which led the nation in rebound margin.

"I worked for [Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon], I understand how hard it is to not only win at Petersen, but to out-rebound that team, it seemed like we had eight hands to their two or four every time," Rice said. "That's basically what you need. I thought we rebounded tremendously well as a team. Our three little guards having 15 rebounds last night helped. Those freshmen are kind of understanding that it's just not their job to dribble and create and shoot. They have to do other things to be successful."

But facing West Virginia (12-5, 3-2) just 10 days after the last game is the true test for the Scarlet Knights.

The last affair was ugly for both teams, but West Virginia led comfortably the entire way.

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, who said earlier in the week that Rutgers' recent improvement impressed him, expects better performances from both teams tomorrow in Morgantown, W.V.

"We shot the ball very well, they didn't shoot the ball very well and sometimes that happens," Huggins said. "It was kind of a game that it was really hard to get in any kind of flow."

Last time against the Mountaineers, Rutgers junior forward Dane Miller played just 11 minutes and did not score.

Miller came under fire from the coaching staff after the poor performance, however, and responded with a double-double against Pittsburgh.

"Basically it was just one of those games where we went in and we weren't locked in," Miller said. "There were individuals on our team that weren't really ready to play as a team. I don't think it's about pride. I think this game is about playing how we played against UConn and Pitt. We're coming in focused knowing we have business to do."


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