Duquesne comes into the battle with WVU giving new meaning to the term short-handed. The Dukes have only eight scholarship players available after the loss of center Simplice Njoya to an NCAA investigation concerning recruiting irregularities. In addition to Njoya, Duquesne is also missing 6-10 center Chris Clark, who was felled for the first semester by academics. It is possible that either or both of those players could regain their eligibility in time for Saturday's contest.
With Njoya and Clark out, the Dukes are very short. Forward Jon Pawluk, at 6-9, is the only Duquesne player taller than 6-7, which obviously cripples the Dukes play inside.
One of those 6-7 players, forward Wayne Smith, has been Duquesne's most consistent player this year. Smith has an excellent combination of outside shooting and inside moves, which WVU knows all to well. Smith has averaged 18 points against WVU in his career, and putting up 15 points and six boards per contest so far this season.
Other than Smith, howeever, the Dukes struggle on the boards. Duquense averages only 32 rebounds per contest while giving up 36, which is good news for a Mountaineer team that is still fighting to establish an inside identity other than Chris Moss.
In the backcourt, guards Kevin Forney and Aly Samabaly have been respectable, but do not present a scoring threat. The two have combined for only ten points per game, and have been to the foul line a total of only nine times all season.
Perimeter scoring has come from sub Jamal Hunter, who has started the last two games in a three guard alignment due to Njoya's absence. Hunter is putting in 11 points per contest, and is much more aggressive in taking the ball to the basket and drawing defenders to him.
WVU's Drew Schifino vs. Duquesne's Jamal Hunter
It's not often that we'll feature one or mor subs in the matchup section, but this one is too compelling to ignore.
WVU 0-0, 6-1
DU 0-0, 2-4
|Wed 12/19 7:00 PM|
WVU leads 42-34
|Line: WVU -9|
At 6-5, Hunter will provide a strong challenge to Schifino whether he is plaing in the shooting guard or small forward position. Likewise, Schifino is able to play both spots, so the battle between those two figures to be entertaining.
On the flip side, Schifino can likely take some of Hunter's offense away by forcing him to play defense. Many of WVU's defensive stoppers in previous years have been limited or one dimensional on offense, but that's not the case with Schifino. The offensive pressure he applies to his opponent can cause him to wear down and reduce his effectiveness on the offensive end.
Keep an eye on this matchup - we expect Coach Catlett to jiggle his lineup to keep Schifino on Hunter the majority of the time. On the floor, the battle should be a good one on both ends of the floor.
DU: Wayne Smith (Groin) Probable
For possibly the last time this season, WVU will have a decided size and strength advantage against their opponent. The Mountianeers should be able to work the ball inside against Duquesne, so we expect Chris Moss to have another big night.
When Duquense goes with their three guard lineup, don't be surprised to see WVU counter with their own three guard look. Both Drew Schifino and Jay Hewitt could see time with Lionel Armstead and Jonathan Hargett as the Mountaineers try to counter Duquesne's smaller lineup.
We also expect the center derby to continue, but audition time is drawing to a close. John Oliver is continuing to hold onto the position almost by default, as neither Chris Garnett nor Ales Chan have mounted serious challenges.
Wayne Smith is a difficult challenge for any current Mountaineer to guard, because there's no one on WVU's roster that can match is overall package of height, strength and shooting range. Look for the Mountaineers to rotate defenders and defensive looks on Smith. This could be the game when junk defenses such as the diamond and one or triangle and two are unveiled.
Duquesne always seems to play WVU tough, going all the way back to the days of the Eastern 8. We don't expect this game to be any different, but in the end we expect WVU's superior firepower to prevail.
Forward Wayne Smith is the 11th highest scoring Canadian in NCAA history, but stands a reasonable change of becoming the all time leader in that category. He needs to average 17.9 points per game through the rest of the regular season to reach that plateau.
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Can you guess Duquesne head coach Danny Nee's alma mater? It's St. Mary of the Plains. The first reader who can tell us where that institution is (or was) wins a BlueGoldNews.com baseball hat. Email us at Trivia@BlueGoldNews.com with your answers.
EDITOR'S NOTE: We have a winner! Patrick Johnson correclty identified Dodge City, Kansas, as the home of now defunct St. Mary of the Plains College.
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Only St. Bonaventure, with 86 contests, has played Duquesne more than WVU. This is the 77th time the Dukes and Mountaineers will meet on the hardwood.
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George Von Benko, who hosted one of the first editions of the weeknight radio show that evolved into the current MetroNews Statewide Sportsline, is the color analyst on Duquesne's radio broadcasts.