Like West Virginia, Rutgers has been a perimeter oriented team this year, depending on the jump shot for its success. Unlike WVU, however, the Knights haven't been able to do much in the Big East with their outside attack.
Rutgers' three-guard offense is led by Ricky Shields (Sr., 6-4, 190 lbs.) who averages 12.9 points per game. He has fired up 168 three-pointers, the most on the team, and also snares 4.3 rebounds per game. Marquis Webb (So., 6-5, 205 lbs.) and Juel Wiggin (Sr., 6-3, 190 lbs.) give the Scarlet Knights good height in the backcourt, which causes problems for foes, especially those with shorter point guards. That duo combines to score almost 13 points per game. Wiggin has just six starts on the season, as he moved into the lineup to replace Quincy Douby, who had been struggling from the field before bouncing back against Arkansas-Monticello. Douby (So., 6-3, 175 lbs.), who could return to the starting lineup against WVU, leads the team with 14.8 points per game, and is the team's other major three-point threat. Douby gets shots away from anywhere on the floor, and is a tough opponent to keep track of in the halfcourt.
Forward Ollie Bailey has been Rutgers' main inside threat, putting up 10.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. He's a solid shooter (51.5% from the field) who can't be ignored. Center Byron Joynes (So., 6-9, 265 lbs.) is a banger who tallies more rebounds (5.0) than points (4.3). He averages nearly four fouls per game and has fouled out of three games this year.
Off the bench, big center Jimmie Inglis (Jr., 6-9, 260 lbs.) provides more muscle with a scoring touch. He tallies 5.2 points in just 15 minutes of action per night. Forward Dan Waterstradt (Fr., 6-11, 225) has also contributed during his initial season, averaging 2.6 points and 2.7 rebounds in just over 11 minutes per contest.
West Virginia guard Joe Herber vs. Rutgers guard Ricky Shields
Shields, who has killed the Mountaineers in the teams' last two meetings, must be slowed if WVU is to keep their NCAA hopes alive.
|Sat Feb. 5|
WVU 17-8, 7-7
RU 9-15, 2-11
WVU - 45
RU - 173
When WVU goes man-to-man, look for Herber, who has the size to bang with Shields down low, to match up with him on occasion. While Herber might be at a bit of a disadvantage on the perimeter, his defensive style and ability to frustrate opponents could be just what West Virginia needs to slow Shields, who scored 50 points in the two meetings last season.
With the Scarlet Knights weaker inside than they were last year, WVU might also be able to play more 1-3-1 without having the fear that the Knights will take advantage of them in the lane. Look for the Mountaineers to extend the wings of their defense and challenge Shields and his teammates aggressively at the three-point line.
RU: Jason Cherry (Hand) Out
It will be an emotion filled day at the Coliseum, for several reasons. First, it will be Senior Day, as stalwart Tyrone Sally, shot-blocking champ D'or Fischer and team leader Duriel "Juice" Price will make their final walks down the gold and blue carpet, That in itself will be a good bit for those players to deal with, but it's hardly the only distraction under the big mushroom on Saturday. West Virginia will also be honoring members of its first integrated basketball team. Finally, and perhaps most importantly WVU will be playing for its NCAA life, as a loss could well knock them out of contention for an at large bid.
The biggest question for Saturday's game is how well the Mountaineers will handle all of these issues. The seniors will likely be dealing with a lot of different feelings, and will no doubt want to win what could be their final appearance in the WVU Coliseum. And, of course, the team as a whole has a lot on the line as well.
West Virginia got a bit of national attention after running off ten consecutive wins to start the season, but stumbled a bit in the limelight, losing five of their next six. Of course, the competition had a lot to do with that, but WVU also didn't seem to handle the attention well at all. It's not as if all eves will be focused on Morgantown this weekend, as there are a number of teams in the same bubble position as the Mountaineers, but there's also no doubt that the pressure is on. How the team handles that will probably have as big an effect on the outcome as the offensive and defensive strategies each team employs.
Ricky Shields posted career highs in both of his games against WVU last year. He tied his career best of 24 in the Scarlet Knights' regular season win over the Mountaineers, then bested that with 26 points in their narrow 67-64 NIT win.
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Barring a strange occurrence, WVU will break the school record for three-point field goal attempts for the third consecutive year against Rutgers.
In 2002-03, WVU hoisted 593 three-pointers to establish a new school standard, then shattered that mark in 2003-04 with 656 attempts. This year, the Mountaineers have fired up 642 threes.
West Virginia has a bit more work to do in order to break their all-time record of 236 successful three-point attempts, set last year. The Gold and Blue have made 215 so far this season, which surpassed the 2002-03 mark of 203 makes for second all-time.
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Magic numbers: WVU has not lost this season when shooting better than 38.1% from three-point range, 50% from the field, or scoring 70 points in the contest.
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After reaching the finals of the NIT last year, the Scarlet Knights won't be in the postseason in 2005, barring a miracle run through the Big East tournament.
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West Virginia is 25-8 all-time in home finales at the WVU Coliseum, and 67-28 all-time overall in its last home date of the season.