Preview: WVU - Lafayette

West Virginia will face an experienced Lafayette team on Sunday in its second contest of the 2014-15 season.

SCOUTING THE LEOPARDS

Lafayette got off to a good start, posting a 77-50 road victory over Robert Morris on Friday. Employing a listed four-guard starting lineup (and with all five starters returning), the Leopards were able to work the ball into the midrange and get to the rim, as they had 28 free throws (22 makes) in addition to their 49 shots from the field.

Senior forward Dan Trist (6-9, 235 lbs.) was a stalwart inside, scoring 21 points and grabbing seven boards in just 14 minutes of action. He was complemented by an array of guards who move the ball well, including Nick Lindner (5-11, 165 lbs.), who was a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line on his way to 18 points, and Seth Hinrichs (6-8, 225 lbs.) who added 15 points on 5-7 shooting from the field while also dishing out a team best four assists. Joe Ptasinski (6-3, 175 lbs.) provided the outside threat, hitting half of his six 3-point attempts.

With something of a short lineup, the Leopards might appear to be challenged on the boards, but a team effort, along with good defensive play, allowed them to outrebound the the Colonials by 16. The four players listed above had seven, six, seven and seven retrievals respectively, while subs Monty Boykins (four) and Nathaniel Musters (three) also contributed in just 11 minutes of action apiece. West Virginia will have to block out across the lineup in order to neutralize this Leopard strength.

While the Robert Morris win was just one game, it showed a continuing trend of efficient offensive play for the Leopards, who got good shots throughout and registered a final success rate of 51% from the field. Only starting guard Scott Bryce, who failed to connect on five attempts, was notably off-target. That extended to the free throw line, where Lindner's perfect ten led a 78.6% performance for the team.

While Hinrichs, the captain and a preseason all-league first team selection, is a player to focus on, the Leopards are the kind of squad that will beat foes with efficiency. They move the ball well, don't force shots and have players across the lineup that can make them. While 3-pointers weren't a big part of their game against RMC, both Hinrichs and Scott were at the 44% mark from that range last year, meaning that WVU will have to defend from the rim to the arc against multiple players.


OUTLOOK

The Mountaineers defeated Monmouth by limiting the Hawks to just 38 field goal attempts and turning them over 24 times. While that was a notable defensive effort, WVU can't expect the same results against Lafayette, and likely won't be able to survive another 18-69 shooting performance from the field.

BlueGoldNews.com
Game Info
Sun Nov 16
3:00 PM E
WVU Coliseum
Morgantown, WV
Records
WVU 1-0, 0-0
LC 1-0, 0-0
Series
LC 2-1
TV
ROOT Sports
Sirius/XM
None
RPI
WVU - 74
LC: 182
We'll have to wait to see if West Virginia's shooting performance was an aberration or a defining characteristic of this team, but 26% just won't result in many wins, no matter how good the defense is that WVU plays. Putting that aside for the moment, the defense was very good against Monmouth, but that was lost in the postgame analysis, as all of the attention on the 51 missed Mountaineer field goal attempts. That lack of attention should be corrected in this game, where WVU's defense will be tested by the balanced Leopard attack.

West Virginia had a bit of trouble against Monmouth's quick guards in the open court, but were often able to rally and cut off paths to the hoop, holding the visitors to just 17 successful shots from the field. Lafayette will try to beat WVU's pressure with passing rather than speedy ballhandlers, but either way the challenge will be the same. West Virginia will go for turnovers with its press, with the secondary benefit of taking time off the shot clock on Leopard possessions. That will limit the number of passes and amount of time they have to work the ball in the halfcourt, which should in turn make it less effective. A key for WVU here is patience -- staying with their man or in their assigned zones through the entire shot clock is a mandatory.

With a live game under their belts, the progression of WVU's newcomers is also an item to track. As missed shots mounted on Friday, several players failed to pull the trigger when openings presented themselves. While that's a natural reaction for freshmen or new players, the fact is that there aren't a lot of returning veterans who are go-to scorers on the perimeter, and players on the floor that have open shots in their comfort zones have to fire away. Head coach Bob Huggins was likely as displeased with that aspect of the offense as he was with the misses.

With two players (BillyDee Williams and Brandon Watkins) unavailable for Friday's game, WVU was still able to go 11 players deep into its bench. Watkins, who was sick, could return today, giving WVU another weapon in its efforts to wear down opposing teams, or overmatch them with a talent advantage off the bench. Lafayette also is not afraid to play the majority of its roster, so the match-up of the subs could be an important item to track in in the contest.


FAST BREAKS

In the short series history, no team has won on its home floor. West Virginia took a 52-40 road win in 1940, while the Leopards own back-to-back wins in 1972 and 1973 in the WVU Coliseum.

* * *

With a win, WVU head coach Bob Huggins would take sole possession of 16th place on the NCAA Division I all-time winningest coaches list. He is currently tied with Mountaineer nemesis John Chaney with 741 wins. The next target, for a spot in the top 15, is Rollie Massimino at 745. Massimino is currently the head coach at Northwood University, an NAIA school in Florida.

* * *

A member of the Patriot League, Monmouth opens with five of its first six games on the road, and also has a December trip to Kansas before embarking on league play at the turn of the year.

* * *

Lafayette head coach Fran O’Hanlon is one of only seven head coaches to direct the same Division I program since the start of the 1995-96 season. O’Hanlon is joined on the list by Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Bob McKillop (Davidson), Dave Loos (Austin Peay), Tom Izzo (Michigan State and Phil Martelli (Saint Joseph’s).


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