SCOUTING THE VIKINGS
The 12-0 Vikings, off to the best start in school history under head coach Gary Waters, are a mixture of good and bad. Cleveland State rebounds and shoots reasonably, but has more turnovers than assists. There's some depth there, but mostly in the frontcourt. There's experience mixed with some youth. So the biggest question, and one that could be further addressed against West Virginia, is whether the hot start is a product of ability or the inability of foes. The biggest challenge for the Mountaineers is senior guard Norris Cole (6-2, 170 lbs.). The Dayton native averages 21.3 points and almost five rebounds, making him one of the most dynamic scorers WVU has thus far faced. Cole is the go-to player for Waters, and he has already taken 168 shots, making 45.8 percent. He hits from three-point range and at the line and can get into the lane and put pressure on the rim. His quickness and ballhandling ability are by far the finest on the team, and Cole is primarily responsible for State being even close in the overall assist-to-turnover ratio with his plus-20 ratio. This is a tough match for any defender, but West Virginia should be helped by Cole's size, which isn't exceptional. Fellow guard Trevon Harmon (6-1, 170 lbs.) scores a team second-most 14 points per game with four rebounds. The junior loves the three and has taken 72, making 27 (37.5 percent). He has shot 80 fewer free throws than Cole, and typically runs hot and cold in a game. He can put up big numbers – or be stymied for extended periods. He is quick off the dribble and gets into the lane, but will force at times.
Swingman Jeremy Montgomery (6-2, 190 lbs.) hits for 12 points and four boards per outing. Like Cole and Harmon, he plays more than 30 minutes per game and won't hesitate to shoot. His game, as one would expect, is more tailored to the inside, and he doesn't shoot nearly as well. He makes more than 75 percent from the line, but his rebounding, largely due to size, isn't great from the three-spot. Waters likes his group to run, and the line-up reflects this with Montgomery, who is more a combo guard than a pure small forward. Power forward Tim Karnzycz (6-6, 195 lbs.) is the most inexperienced starter and scores just four points per game. The sophomore is a Cam Thoroughman-type who will challenge for loose balls, play aggressively and be the nuts-and-bolts player every coach desires. His shot and rebounding ability are average, but he can get under the skin of foes with his toughness.
Center Aaron Pogue (6-9, 275 lbs.), seven points and six boards per game, is developing into one of the premier interior players in the Horizon League. The junior catches the ball well on the blocks and, like former Waters' player Rashod Kent, plays bigger than his size. He defends well and will put a body on West Virginia's forwards. Unlikely to be intimidated, Pogue has solid shot-blocking ability and will continually press the issue on that end. WVU must get a body on Pogue and keep him from getting clean chances for rebounds. His offensive game is a mix of moves on the blocks and a few short jumpers. He likes the putback, and will try to get into defenders and get to the line. His combo of muscle and height will surprise many fans. There isn't a ton of polish there, but the abilities exist.
|Sat. Dec. 18
Cleveland State 12-0
Big East Network
WVU - 9
Cleveland State - 20
The guar depth is a bit thin, as only sophomore Josh McCoy (6-4, 175 lbs.) is routinely utilized off the bench. McCoy averages five points and three rebounds in about 15 minutes per game. He is shooting better than 50 percent from the field and has made nine of 19 threes. Among the best pure shooters on the team, he is excellent from the line and must be guarded beyond the arc. He won't create much off the dribble or blow past a defender, though, and he isn't yet strong enough to pound the ball on the inside. The frontcourt has more bodies available, led by Charlie Woods (6-7, 200 lbs.). The sophomore hits for four points and three boards and can hit from anywhere on the floor. Woods has a surprising 40 percent accuracy from three-point range. He doesn't get to the line, but defends well and has a wingspan that can hurt opposing players. Fellow forward Luda Ndaye (6-9, 230 lbs.) is in a filler role as a freshman, playing six minutes a game and averaging less than two points and two rebounds. The biggest, literally, challenge is center Joe Latas (6-11, 280 lbs.). The junior, like the rest of the backups, isn't prolific in scoring or rebounding, but he can change the direction of shots and provides Waters some minutes and sheer size. His game is all on the inside, where he has made 10 of 21 shots. He will see, on average, about 10 minutes per game. Get a body on him, and his rebounding is harnessed.
It's difficult to tell if this Cleveland State team is quite good, of it the record is more a product of the opponents played. The Vikings shoot well from the line and adequately from the field, but don't rebound well offensively for their size and have more turnovers than assists. There's no question pressure and steals have led to more scoring chances to offset part of that, but the stats and talent don't show a team that should be able to continually threaten a major level team. The issue here for West Virginia is that it hasn't played at a high level for the majority of the season. Huggins is still trying to get his team to play hard and show a toughness that hasn't surfaced. WVU routinely experiences stretches of puzzling play with lack of hustle, focus and, it seems, fundamentals. If the Mountaineers rebound, connect from the line and don't play flatly, this is a game it should win. State has enough experience and ability to win versus a Big East team on the road, and it if can turn WVU over, the home team could be in for a surprise. Much like the Mountaineer football team, there are too many unknowns in itself to predict the game. This could come out a myriad of ways.
Cleveland St: G Anthony Wells (Knee), Doubtful; G D'Aundray Brown (Finger), Doubtful; G Sebastian Douglas (Knee), Out for Season.
Fans who bring a nonperishable food item will receiver a coupon for a ticket to an upcoming women's basketball game.
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West Virginia has won 40 of its last 43 December games and 33 in a row at the Coliseum. It is trying for its 449th victory at the Coliseum all-time.
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This is the third consecutive season the teams have met. WVU won last season on a lay-up with 1.2 seconds left in Cleveland. The Mountaineers won 53-43 in the Coliseum two years ago. The first series meeting was in 1976-77. Huggins scored seven points in a 107-69 win.
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West Virginia is 11-3 against current Horizon League members. Huggins is 8-5 versus Cleveland State as a head coach. He is 4-0 against Waters all-time. Waters is 4-5 against WVU, 4-3 when he coached Rutgers.
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The Vikings have already won five road games this season. They are off to the best start in school history.