SCOUTING THE KEYDETS
VMI, off to a 5-0 start, is well-balanced in scoring with two players averaging more than 20 points and nearly four in double figures. The best is forward Stan Okoye, a 6-5, 200-pounder who hits for 22 points and 10 boards per outing. Those numbers have been padded by the competition (WVU is the lone major conference team it will play all regular season) and smaller line-ups.
The Mountaineers will be able to flash some length and athleticism at Okoye, who was named to the Big South All-Freshman team last year. He thrived as a sixth man, and is developing well as a starter. His game is solid in the paint, where the majority of his points come from, but he will shoot the jumper as needed. A high-percentage scorer (70 percent from the field), if WVU can push him away from the hoop, his accuracy quickly falls.
Fellow forward Ron Burks, 6-4, 215 pounds, averages 8.6 points and five rebounds. A sort of jack-of-all-trades, Burks played some point guard last year when pressed into duty, and he can handle the ball well for a 6-4 collegiate player. He hasn't shot well from this season, especially from three-point range, but has been excellent at the line and on defense. If West Virginia can guard his shot and challenge him, it should be able to limit his outside effectiveness.
Center Stephen Sargent, 7-0, 265 pounds, is only averaging four points and four rebounds. A great addition in terms of height, the junior has taken just 15 shots and only plays about 13 minutes per game, by far the fewest of any starter. Point guard Rodney Glasgow, a freshman, is seeing a team-best 30 minutes per game. The newcomer averages 12 points and has a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio. But he has yet to see the quickness and defensive hounding ability of players like Joe Mazzulla and Truck Bryant. Almost automatic from the line, the 5-10, 170-pounder is the last Keydet WVU wants to foul in late-game situations. He'll drive it often and can pull up from three. But the Mountaineer length should cut down on his ability.
Shooting guard Keith Gabriel, 6-4, 185 pounds, is the team's second-leading scorer at 20 points per game. The junior has taken a team-most 71 shots, making 46.5 percent. He shoots about eight threes per game, making 35 percent, and must be guarded from anywhere on the floor. He likes to get into the lane and draw contact, but he isn't converting well from the line.
|Sat. Nov. 27
7:00 p.m. EST
Charleston Civic Center
Big East Network
WVU - 12
VMI - 303
Nick Gore, a 6-6, 220-pound forward, averages 10 points in about 22 minutes. He has made 18 of 34 shots, including eight of 24 from three-point range. Another solid shooter, Gore is adept at coming off the bench. He adds some size and energy, and is among the stronger players for VMI. He will need to hit a few shots and aid in the rebounding, as his height is among the best on a small team.
Michael Sparks (6-4, 195 lbs.) averages seven points and three rebounds in about 22 minutes. The guard is among the better shooters, and can hit from well beyond the arc. He needs to be guarded well out, and brings some toughness as well. An experienced player, Sparks sees time because of his on-floor leadership as well. Senior guard Austin Kenon hits for nine points in 15 minutes per game. Almost entirely a perimeter shooter, Kenon has connected on six of 19 threes in 24 total shots. The 5-11, 180-pounder was a preseason All-Big South selection. A rare team captain who doesn't start, the coaching staff likes his experience and energy off the bench as a back-up for Glasgow.
VMI has a couple of solid scorers and the ability to hang with major conference teams, because it appears they can score and score well. The issue against the Mountaineers will be depth and a freshman point guard. Glasgow shows solid promise and should be a very good player for the Keydets over the forthcoming season. But against Joe Mazzulla's hounding defense and the quickness of Truck Bryant, it will be difficult for him to score the points to which he is accustomed. And, like Bryant, Glasgow could get frustrated early and begin to force and make mistakes as West Virginia's athleticism and length hound him.
VMI's depth is lacking and it isn't very long or tall (no starter taller than 6-5 save the center), either. This should be a game in which West Virginia controls the rebounding. Kevin Jones and Deniz Kilicli should be able to get second-chance points, and jumpshots should be a bit easier facing smaller competition. This should be a win, but VMI is a solid squad and has the ability to play closer than expected. No holiday hangover in the end, though. There's simply too much of everything – save foul shooting – from West Virginia.
The series meeting is the first since Jan. 15, 1969. West Virginia has faced VMI six times in Charleston, going 5-1. VMI actually won the first two series meetings and two of the last three.
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WVU is 63-21 all-time in Charleston and 55-19 at the Civic Center. It is 16-2 against VMI on neutral floors.
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The Mountaineers, like VMI former members of the Southern Conference, are 49-5 all-time against current Big South members.
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In 1969, the teams met twice within a week in Beckley and Morgantown. The officials for the Beckley game are listed as Zigismund Mihalik, Harry Bushkar and a person simply called "Red." Mihalik and Red also worked the Morgantown game.
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Gary McPherson, the current Senior Director of Development for the Mountaineer Athletic Club and a former assistant basketball coach under Gale Catlett, was VMI's coach in the late 1960s. He is a Cass, W.Va. native.