West Virginia (12-4, 3-1) at No. 8 UConn (12-3, 2-2)
Date: Jan. 9, 2012
Time: 7 p.m.
Site: XL Center, Hartford, Conn.
TV: ESPN2 (Sean McDonough, Jay Bilas, Bill Raftery)
Radio: UConn Radio Network/WTIC-AM 1080 (Joe D'Ambrosio, Wayne Norman)
Series: UConn leads 14-5. Notes: The series began in 1962-63. UConn leads 13-4 since West Virginia joined the Big East. West Virginia is 0-8 against the Huskies in games played at Connecticut, including 0-3 in Hartford. Jim Calhoun is 14-4 against WVU. West Virginia coach Bob Huggins is 2-4 against UConn, including a loss in the 1995 NCAA tournament when he was at Cincinnati.
Last meeting: West Virginia 65, UConn 56 (March 2, 2011)
In Morgantown, Kevin Jones scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and Joe Mazzulla tied a career high with 18 points as the Mountaineers recorded win No. 1,600 in program history.
WEST VIRGINIA PROBABLE STARTERS
G 4 Jabarie Hinds Fr. 5-11 175 7.8 ppg
G 25 Darryl Bryant Sr. 6-2 195 18.4 ppg
F 5 Kevin Jones Sr. 6-8 260 19.8 ppg
F 13 Deniz Kilicli Jr. 6-9 260 10.8 ppg
F 55 Keaton Miles Fr. 6-6 205 1.3 ppg
UCONN PROBABLE STARTERS
G 13 Shabazz Napier So. 6-1 171 14.7 ppg
G 3 Jeremy Lamb So. 6-5 180 18.2 ppg
C 34 Andre Drummond Fr. 6-10 270 9.6 ppg
F 22 Niels Giffey So. 6-7 205 2.9 ppg
F 34 Alex Oriakhi Jr. 6-9 240 6.6 ppg
MOUNTAINEERS ON A ROLL: West Virginia was picked seventh in the Big East preseason coaches' poll but is off to a 3-1 start in conference play with wins over Villanova, Rutgers and Georgetown. That puts WVU in a three-way tie for second with Seton Hall and Georgetown. The Rutgers victory was on the road. The Mountaineers have impressive non-conference wins over Kansas State and Miami, in addition to an 83-81 overtime loss to Baylor. In eight of the last nine seasons, West Virginia has finished higher or equal to its preseason forecast.
SENIORITY: The Mountaineers are thriving in large part because of two seniors who are flexing their experience and muscle. Forward Kevin Jones leads the Big East in scoring (19.8 ppg) and rebounding (11.9 rpg). But in four conference games, senior guard Darryl "Truck" Bryant is averaging 24.8 points and shooting 37.5 percent from three-point range. Against UConn, Jones will be playing in his 123rd career game and making his 88th consecutive start. Bryant has started 107 games and played in 118 career games for the Mountaineers.
GIFFEY TO START: Niels Giffey will start at small forward for the second consecutive game, despite going scoreless in 22 minutes Saturday against Rutgers. The Huskies need production from the three spot. Freshman DeAndre Daniels and sophomore Roscoe Smith are not getting it done. Calhoun started Giffey against Rutgers based on effort, his offensive movement away from the ball, his focus and his passing ability. Daniels caught a dose of Calhoun's wrath late in the game Saturday. Smith still has his injured left wrist wrapped but Calhoun said that had nothing to do with the fact Smith played less than one minute against Rutgers. The Huskies need somebody to step up here.
NAPIER HURTING: Point guard Shabazz Napier sat out the final drill in UConn's 90-minute practice Sunday. He was limping and headed straight to the trainer's room for treatment on his sore left foot. Napier toughed it out and played 38 minutes, leading UConn with 23 points in the loss to Rutgers, but obviously is in a lot of pain.
STRANGE REUNION: For UConn freshman Ryan Boatright, this will his first game against West Virginia, the school he orally committed to in October 2010 and then backed out on just four days later. That ultimately opened the door to UConn and the 5-10 point guard from Aurora, Ill., says the situation will not be awkward Monday night. "I don't even think about it, especially coming off two losses; it's all about winning," Boatright said Sunday. "I don't even think about that stuff." It has been well-chronicled that Boatright committed to USC as an eighth-grader, then changed his mind when coach Tim Floyd left the Trojans. There was some thought Boatright would end up at Providence but when he committed to West Virginia his reason was coach Bob Huggins. "I know coach Huggins," Boatright said at the time. "When he sees talent and he knows that you can play, he knows what he's talking about." But when Huggins also secured a commitment from point guard Jabarie Hinds, of Mount Vernon, N.Y., just one day later, Boatright reversed his field. "No I don't know [Hinds]," Boatright said. "It's in the past. I'm where I want to be. It's just the way it went. It worked out best for both of us. This is where I wanted to be the whole time."
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I thought he was really good in the second half. He forced things in the first half and he's not good when he forces things. Once he let the game come to him, he played really well. He's bought into being a leader." – West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, on the play of Truck Bryant, who scored 25 points in a 74-62 victory over Georgetown Saturday.