The Bison returned just four players from last year's squad, and are still struggling to find an effective combination of players. A settled fifth starter and reliable help off the bench are head coach Frankie Allen's primary areas of concern as the Bison make their final forays in out of conference play.
Dynamo Louis Ford (5-6, 170) is the linchpin of the Howard offense. Ford is a shooting point guard and a solid defender who makes his presence felt in just about every aspect of the game. He averages 12.1 points per game and leads the team in assists with more than four per outing. Ford teams with freshman Darryl Hudson (6-4, 190), who shoots less than Ford but is more accurate. Hudson contributes 7.1 points per game on 47% shooting, which is the best of any Bison regular.
The front line is led by James Wilkinson (6-9, 200). The Louisville native leads the team with a 17.9 points per game average, and also leads the team in rebounding and blocked shots. Like WVU's big men, Wilkinson is not afraid to pop out beyond the three point line and fire a long range shot, as he leads the team in three-point attempts.
Seye Aluko (6-6, 190) is Wilkinson's most steady mate in the front court, averaging 9.6 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. Aluko is also a sharpshooter from the free throw line (81.5%), so WVU will have to defend him with care.
The Bison have started four other players in the final frontcourt spot in their first eight games, all with varying degrees of success. Of those players, Bilal Russell (6-5, 200) has gotten the most playing time, averaging 20 minutes per outing while scoring 5.5 points per game.
Ford is an ironman for the Bison, averaging nearly 37 minutes of playing time per game. Like Durisseau-Collins, he is the starting point of the offense, but is much more likely to shoot than his Mountaineer counterpart.
|Tue 12/30 8:00 p.m.|
WVU 6-3, 0-0
HU 2-6, 0-0
WVU - 77
HU - 303
|Margin: WVU +26|
Ford has been a bit loose with the ball, committing 30 turnovers to match his steal total, and that's an area that JDC is likely to hone in on. Watch for Durisseau-Collins to pressure Ford in man to man situations and try to force him into bad decisions with the ball. When the Mountaineers are in a zone, they may also try the same tactic with a trap or two.
At only 5-6, Ford is averaging four rebounds per game, so Durisseau-Collins also has the task of keeping Ford from picking up stray boards. that's a task at which WVU's point guard also excels, and it sets up an interesting battle between two smallish perimeter players as they fight for the extra rebounds that are so vital to their teams.
One of Howard's big weaknesses is protecting the basketball. Only Ford and backup Hakima Jackson have more assists than turnovers, and as a team the Bison have more than twice as many turnovers as steals.
This would seem to play right into the hands of the more protective Mountaineers, but West Virginia has not yet approached last year's level of care with the ball. Howard would seem to be a good opportunity to reverse that trend.
Although the visitors from D.C. do have some talent, this, like the IPFW game, is one that West Virginia should win. WVU needs to put this game away in convincing fashion to give them some confidence for the upcoming Big East battles.
With Howard's problems in the frontcourt, Drew Schifino could have some matchups that are to his liking, especially on the offensive end. West Virginia needs a consistent Schifino on the floor in order to make their offense go, and now is the time for the talented junior to make his presence felt for the entire forty minutes.
West Virginia made every effort to get this game moved to Jacksonville, but were unable to get all the logistics worked out due to problems with possible venues in the Jacksonville area.
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The Bison have been idle since an 89-58 loss to Georgetown on December 20.
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Drew Schifino currently leads the country with a streak of 47 consecutive games in double figures.
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Bison head coach Frankie Allen was the head coach at Virginia Tech for four seasons. In his first year, he led Tech to a 19-10 record and earned several coach of the year honors, but fell off that pace in his last three years. No doubt Allen wishes he had received the patience that Frank Beamer did when he fell on hard times.