SCOUTING THE BULLS
Head coach Stan Heath's line-up is well-balanced, with multiple scoring threats and good size and athleticism. The biggest threat against West Virginia is forward Augustus Gilchrist (6-10, 245 lbs.), as the junior hits for almost 13 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. His size is an immediate concern for the Mountaineers, who field a roster with just one available player 6-9 or taller. Gilchrist is accurate from inside, from where almost all his field goals come, but is susceptible to turnovers (42 on the season) and doesn't always secure the ball as well as the coaching staff would like. His 63 percent shooting from the line is middle of the pack, and he isn't truly the biggest offensive rebounding threat on the team. Still, this is a player with size and some ability that could cause issues on both ends for West Virginia.
Fellow forward Jarrid Famous (6-11, 240 lbs.) is both a slightly better handler and interior finisher than Gilchrist, but won't step outside at all. Famous plays 21 minutes to Gilchrist's 28 per game and averages 9.3 points and six boards. The senior is hitting 54 percent from the floor and 73 percent from the line and is shows very good control in all phases. He rebounds well on the offensive end (team-best 53 on the season) and can be a put-back machine, especially with USF's poor outside shooting percentage. West Virginia could struggle with his size and ability to grab longer rebounds off long misses, and will need Deniz Kilicli and Kevin Jones to play physical but clean basketball versus the interior.
Swingman Hugh Robertson (6-6, 202 lbs.) is able to play under the radar as he does little exceptionally but most everything well. The junior averages 9.2 points and 4.4 rebounds and is nearing a 1.75 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He'll shoot the three, and frankly is among the more consistent from beyond the arc at 34.4 percent on 21 of 61. His play is elevated because of the attention on other starters, and he has taken advantage to put up solid numbers across the board. Point guard Anthony Crater (6-1, 170 lbs.) nets the fewest average points of the five starters at 4.6 per game. He plays a team-high 34 minutes a game and is more a distributor. The junior has 77 assists against 48 turnovers, which is a reasonable ratio for the position but nothing exceptional. That's a better pace than most others, as South Florida has committed 324 turnovers to 211 for foes, among the primary reasons the Bulls are struggling. Crater can break the press and get USF into its offense, but his play is best described as workmanlike, as he doesn't shoot incredibly well, is just 52.9 percent from the line – a number far too low for a player one often wants handling the ball in key situations – and doesn't do much for a team defensively.
Two-guard Jawanza Poland (6-4, 200 lbs.) averages more than 10 points per game, but is missing too many shots. The sophomore has made 72 of 201 from the floor (35.8 percent), including a less-than-pedestrian 18 of 75 (24 percent) from three. WVU would be well served to allow him to take the outside shot until he gets remotely hot and not allow him the dribble drive he would rather take at this point. Poland is making 78 percent from the line, and he rebounds reasonably, but his shooting and tendency to get into foul trouble have hurt the Bulls thus far. He also has 13 more turnovers than assists, but can amass some steals and pickpocket opposing guards. WVU's Truck Bryant and Joe Mazzulla shouldn't have issues, but Casey Mitchell needs to be careful versus Poland.
|Sun. Jan. 23
2:00 p.m. EST
WVU 12-5, 3-2
USF 7-13, 1-6
Big East Network
WVU - 13
USF - 123
South Florida goes about eight to nine players deep as needed, with sixth-man Ron Anderson, Jr. (6-8, 255 lbs.) are the primary reserve. Anderson, Jr. plays 24 minutes a game and has started 11 of 20 contests this year. The junior averages eight points and a team-high seven rebounds and has the strength to move opposing players inside. He provides an excellent spark off the bench and is a very good addition to Gilchrist and Famous, who have a bit more height but not the sheer bulk and power of Anderson, Jr. The Kansas State transfer is making 52 percent from the field, most from very close range and many on putbacks. He has 50 offensive rebounds and will provide a good one-on-one battle for Jones on the offensive end. Anderson, Jr. is likely to have issues guarding Jones outside, though. Fellow forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick (6-8, 230 lbs.), 3.6 points, four rebounds per game, plays less than 13 minutes per game on average and is another decent rebounder for Heath. Fitzpatrick's shooting is mediocre, and the sophomore is used only for stretches most of the time.
Backcourt backups Shaun Noriega (6-4, 195 lbs.) and Mike Burwell (6-6, 210 lbs.) average five and 2.4 points in 15.5 and 10.4 minutes, respectively. Both bring some more decent size for the already lengthy Bulls, and Noreiga will especially shoot the three (23 of 73 for 31.5 percent this year). Burwell has taken just 27 threes, making eight, creates solely for himself. He isn't a good passer and often forces action. Both have combined for nine starts this year, and the coaching staff is still shuffling the line-up to try to find a workable combo for Big East play.
South Florida has run hot and cold this season, failing to record any Big East road wins but playing close in the majority of games. The Bulls have very good size, can rebound and are athletic at every position. South Florida was able to force Connecticut into overtime at Connecticut, but have gotten gashed most of the time outside of Tampa and, frankly, shot about the same all season as West Virginia did (read: poorly) in its loss to Marshall on Wednesday. This will be among the more contested games rebounding. The Mountaineers must get a body on every opposing player and try to neutralize Gilchrist and Famous on the defensive end and negate most of their offensive rebounding prowess – as there should be a multitude of rebounds available from all the USF misses. WVU should be able to outshoot the Bulls, so the boards could decide much of the game as long as it is not whistled tightly. Rebounding and tight interior defense are the primary keys, with decent shooting and a reasonable start imperative as well. Lastly, check the turnover stats; unforced errors or a lot of transition points can narrow the expected shooting and turnover positives for the Mountaineers.
WVU: F Kevin Noreen (Knee), Out for Season.
South Florida is 0-8 on the road this season and 1-9 away from home. It is 0-4 in league road games. The only non-Big East series meeting came in the 1977 Big Sun Invitational in St. Petersburg, Fla. USF won 80-71. Huggins was a WVU graduate assistant during that game. West Virginia is unbeaten in six Big East games versus the Bulls.
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Huggins is 18-1 all-time against USF, 14-1 when at Cincinnati. Heath is 1-4 versus West Virginia. His lone win came when he was at Arkansas; the Razorbacks beat WVU 71-64 in the Old Spice Classic Finals.
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The Mountaineers are trying to avoid their 300th all-time January loss against 473 wins. WVU is 13-7 all-time on Jan. 23.
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West Virginia is 77-7 under Huggins when leading at halftime and 81-4 when leading by 10-plus points in a game.
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This is the last of a three-in-four game home stretch for the Mountaineers. WVU then goes on the road against Louisville and Cincinnati. Three of the following four games are away for West Virginia.