SCOUTING THE BLUE DEMONS
There's good news and bad news for DePaul under first-year Blue Demon head coach Oliver Purnell. The good news is DePaul's young talent is much better than what it has had in the past, and it is producing immediately. The bad news is the talent is extremely young, as freshmen Brandon Young (6-3, 175 lbs.) and Cleveland Melvin (6-8, 210 lbs.) pace the back and front courts in scoring, respectively. Young, out of Baltimore's Friendship Collegiate School, is averaging 12.6 points from his shooting guard slot. Young plays a team-best 31 minutes a game and has remained hot from the field, making 48 percent overall, 38 percent from three. He doesn't get to the line much, and needs some time in the weight room, but has good quickness, passes well and has yet to make a series of rookie mistakes. His unselfish play is a bit surprising out of a player so young, and he has a strong upside. This could be a very good Big East player down the line if he continues to develop.
Melvin, a slashing forward, hits for a team-high 12.7 points with about three boards a game. Another Baltimore player, Melvin was Purnell's first signee as DePaul head coach and rated in the top 60 power forwards according to ESPNU. The newcomer plays totally inside and won't take many jumpers from more than 12 feet out. Conversely, he is making 57 percent of his shots, though not many on putbacks. For being as close to the rim as he usually is, he doesn't get many putback scores, and indeed would rather finish in transition than try to body up a Big East interior player like Kevin Jones. Melvin, who has 22 blocks and 12 steals, relies heavily on center Krys Faber (6-10, 260 lbs.) to clog the middle and draw defenders away. Faber, the team-s leading rebounded with 5.7 per game, is a physical presence inside who will get to the line. He must be bodied up by the Mountaineers is they are to keep from getting outrebounded again - this time by a team that doesn't do all that well in the stat line itself. Jones and Deniz Kilicli should be able to match-up here, especially as Melvin is a freshman who isn't yet used to 40 minutes of pounding from stronger players and Faber not among the greatest of talents. This is a very winnable area inside as long as WVU plays physically, cuts off driving lanes and challenges the short jumpers of Melvin.
Alongside Young in the backcourt is point guard Jeremiah Kelly (6-0, 164 lbs.). The junior hits for six points and a couple rebounds and is a pass-first style player. He has 40 assists to 19 turnovers, but has made just 35 percent from the floor, 24 from three-point range. He is a capable shooter, and can get hot at times, so West Virginia must guard the perimeter if he begins knocking down shots. Kelly has a ton of experience and gets DePaul in its offense very well. He is a dogged defender and has the strength and game to match Joe Mazzulla. He has 28 steals and will play physically, which at times gets him into early foul trouble. Fifth starter and swingman Mike Stovall (6-4, 210 lbs.) is the lone senior in the first five and one of just three on the roster overall. Stovall, like Kelly a Chicago native, started his career at Oregon State before transferring to Mineral Area Community College in Park Hills, Mo. He played in 30 games for the Demons last year, starting 20, and is averaging nine points and a pair of assists and boards per game. His game is more attacking the rim and in transition than outside, and indeed he has struggled with the deep shot this season (five of 27 for 18.5 percent). Stovall will try to drive past a defender, and in many games his success is based upon drawing the foul. If the officials let the teams play, Stovall could be limited. If they are calling every hand check on a player going toward the rim, he'll get to the line and convert from there. This isn't the biggest three-man in the league, but he does have some length.
|Tue. Jan. 4
9 p.m. EST
WVU 8-4, 0-2
DePaul 6-8, 0-2
Big East Network
|Sirius Channel: 126|
WVU - 12
DePaul - 232
Purnell primarily uses two reserves, then has another pair ready to steal minutes and play spot duty. The first two off the bench are forward Tony Freeland (6-6, 225 lbs.) and guard Jimmy Drew (6-5, 220 lbs.). Freeland, who has started five times and plays 24 minutes a game, is within a tenth of a point in tying for the team lead in points per game at 12.7. He provides good energy, and won't hesitate to take his shots. Freeland has made 61 of 118 from the floor this year and gotten to the line for a team-high 84 shots, making 54 (64.3 percent). He seems to like contact, and he is very aggressive on the offensive glas. This is, more than Faber and Melvin, the DePaul player who the Mountaineers must find and get a body on in the rebounding game. He isn't great defensively and will turn the ball over, but typically ends up in the plus side in scoring while on the floor because of his continuing rim pressure. Drew, a sizeable player for his slot, is in his first season of Big East play after transferring from Southeast Missouri State. The senior is a sharshooter, hitting 18 of 44 threes (41 percent), and generates a lot of good loks because of his height. He doesn't often drive, shys from contact and won't get to the line (14 of 16 FT this season), but can pull teams out and away from the bucket and bust zones.
Secondary reserves Michael Bizoukas (6-2, 180 lbs.) and Moses Morgan (6-6, 215 lbs.) combine for 24 minutes per game at the guard and guard/forward slots, respectively. Bizoukas is a definite role player, averaging 1.5 points and 1.5 rebounds a game. The junior has played in 11 games for about 15 minutes each and isn't particularly adept or poor at any one thing. This is a minutes-stealer who can play for a bit longer stretch as needed. Morgan, a freshman out of the Las Vegas area, was playing more earlier in the season, but has yet to consistently hit shots. He has made just three of 29 from the floor, and has missed all 17 three-pointers attempted. Purnell is trying to give him chances to get out of the slump, but thus far it hasn't taken. If Morgan plays, watch his shot selection and percentage. More than a couple misses, and Purnell will be quick with the hook.
DePaul is getting outrebounded, outshot from the field, three-point range and the line and is relying mainly on creating turnovers to stay in games. This is, frankly, a game West Virginia - which has also been badly outrebounded in Big East play - should win. The Mountaineers are attempting mostly to not beat themselves at this point. WVU must better the overall rebounding, avoid the slow start and, as head coach Bob Huggins noted, play hard throughout the game - especially in the closing stretch. This is an improving Big East foe, but still one lacking the raw talent of upper-echelon league programs. If West Virginia can't handle DePaul, it isn't likely to win versus its next three foes, either. This isn't a must-have in terms of victory, but all games against this level of squad are creeping quite close to that. The first goal, the coaching staff noted, is to play physically and mentally tough. Let's see that for 40 minutes and go from there.
In the latest CollegeRPI.com ranking, West Virginia is first in strength of schedule and 11th in RPI. On RealTimeRPI.com's ratings, WVU is 12th overall.
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West Virginia has never lost three consecutive games under fourth-year head coach Bob Huggins. Hugins-coached teams have lost three straight games five times in the last 23 years.
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West Virginia is trying for its 470th all-time win in the month of January.
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WVU has won 32 games in a row when holding foes to less than 70 points. The Mountaineers are 71-10 under Huggins when outrebounding an opponent.
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The first series meeting between the schools was 1945 NIT in New York. DePaul won 76-52 for their only win over WVU in five tries. The Mountaineers are 4-0 vs. DePaul in Big East play.
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Huggins is 29-8 all-time against DePaul. Oliver Purnell is 1-2 all-time vs. West Virginia, including a loss in the NIT title game when he was head coach at Clemson. Huggins is 5-1 against Purnell, who is in his first season at DePaul. Purnell has 400 career head coaching victories.