SCOUTING THE EAGLES
Head coach Jeff Jones has American, off a second straight NCAA Tournament appearance, playing perhaps its finest overall basketball in his 11 seasons. The Eagles (5-1) are off to their best start under the coach, and rank 25th in the nation in scoring defense (57.3 ppg) and 18th in field goal percentage defense (36.3 percent). The numbers, while amassed against non-major conference competition, showcase the experience and ability to play team basketball that makes AU the Patriot League favorite. The Eagles, quite the flipside from a VMI team that scores well and loves the three, can still hit from outside at seven per game, but don't rely as heavily upon it. American shoots 44 percent, including 34 from three, and averages 65.7 points per game, led by 14.5 per game from forward Stephen Lumpkins. The 6-8, 225-pounder averages almost 10 rebounds per game as well, giving Jones a centerpiece around which to build. Lumpkins operates well in the paint on both ends, using a variety of offensive moves to gain openings and, last season, having blocked 48 shots – good for the second-most in a single season in school history. The junior, whose father played basketball at Northwestern, will provide a solid test for the Mountaineers.
There's not much else on the interior, though, as fellow stating forward Mike Bersch (6-6, 205 lbs.) averages less than three points and a rebound per game. American typically relies more heavily on swingman Troy Brewer's 14 points and five boards a game. The junior, listed as a guard at 6-5 and a painfully thin 175 pounds, played two years at Georgia, where he averaged about two points in 21 games. He plays the most minutes, and is a solid three-point threat at 17-for-40 this season. He's also excellent from the line, but isn't going to power through opposing players. A true spot-up shooter, Brewer must be covered anywhere on the floor. Guards Steve Luptak and Nick Hendra give Jones a pair of upperclassmen in the backcourt. Luptak (6-3, 185 lbs.), while a better defender, isn't nearly as active as Hendra (6-3, 205 lbs.), who hits for about six points and four rebounds a game. Hendra has more assists (22 to 15), four times the steals and just generally does more than Luptak – who averages less than a point a game with nine shots thus far. Hendra started last season, while this will be Luptak's 14th career start.
|Wed. Dec. 1
Big East Network
WVU - 5
American - 199
Reserve guards Simon McCormack (6-4, 185 lbs.) and Daniel Munoz (6-1, 175 lbs.) give American goo depth at the one and two spots. McCormack, a junior in his second year of part-time starting, is making almost 48 percent from the floor but has yet to shoot a three this season. He averages four points and three boards and is a marksman from the line. This is an experienced player who knows his role and gives Jones a boost off the bench. Munoz, a sophomore, nets almost four points and will shoot from anywhere. He is making 27 percent from three-point range, and is nearing a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio. Freshman Tony Wroblicky could also see some action. The 6-10 forward plays about eight minutes and has made four of 10 shots from the floor. He's active on the glass and will challenge on defense, but is still in the very early stages of developing into a good collegiate player.
This is a more physical team than most would think upon first glance. Huggins compared American to Davidson, a squad that forced the Mountaineers to play ugly and get into a foul shooting contest. West Virginia delivered when it needed to do so, but pieced together one of its lesser overall games in doing so. American will attempt to do much the same thing, mixing in a bit more offense than Davidson and a lot better defense. The Eagles won't hesitate to grab as needed, but do have more developed players who have experience together – meaning they shouldn't need to bail themselves out often. The concern for Jones here is WVU's length. American hasn't seen it in any other teams, and could have an issue matching inside, especially if Moldoveanu gets in foul trouble. Kilicli must attack from the start and not allow Moldoveanu to milk the game into a Euro-style affair. WVU also needs to effectively guard the perimeter. A few more made shots, especially close in, would help as well. This game shouldn't be a major concern, but American has enough talent, experience and scrappy play to hold up if the home team falters.
American: F Vlad Moldoveanu (Concussion), Probable.
West Virginia has won 31 straight non-conference home games in December. It is 23-3 on Dec. 1, the winningest date in program history. The Mountaineers are 30-21 a-time against current members of the Patriot League.
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Huggins needs one victory to tie Denny Crum (675) for 20th place on the NCAA career wins list. He is 1-0 coaching against American, a three-point Cincinnati win in 1991. Huggins' 1993 Cincinnati team beat Jones' Virginia squad 71-54 in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 round.
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West Virginia is holding foes to less than 60 points under Huggins at the Coliseum.
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Huggins played in WVU's only loss to American, on Jan. 3, 1975 at the Presidential Classic in Washington, D.C. He started, making four of 11 shots for eight points. He aso tallied two assists.