St. Bonaventure has already matched its win total from last year (two), and while that certainly stands as an improvement, the Bonnies aren't world-beaters just yet. Still, they appear to be much improved from the scandal-ridden, sad sack bunch that struggled through last season. SBU's position might be comparable to West Virginia's during its first season of rebuilding under John Beilein. Head coach Anthony Solomon has some solid freshmen to work with this year, and appears to be inserting them into his system well.
Guard Ahmad Smith (Sr., 6-5, 210 lbs.) paces SBU with 21.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Like WVU's Mike Gansey, Smith is a versatile performer that can play well at any spot on the court. His sturdy build also helps when he draws contact on the offensive end. Joining Smith in the Bonnies' three-guard attack are Terron Diggs (Jr., 6-0, 180 lbs.) and A.J. Hawkins (Fr., 6-5, 195 lbs.) Diggs runs the offense, and currently stands with an 8.5 to 1 assist to turnover ratio, while Hawkins, having elbowed aside returning starter Wade Dunston, is putting up 10.0 points per game.
The guards don't get a great deal of help off the bench, with Dunston (Sr., 6-4, 190 lbs.) and Isiah Carson (So., 6-1, 195 lbs.) combining for just 7.6 points per outing.
Up front, the story is a bit different. Starters Michael Lee (So., 6-8, 195 lbs.) and Paul Williams (Jr., 6-10, 230 lbs.) average ten and eight points per game respectively, and also combine for more than 12 rebounds per game. They get ample support off the bench from Patrick Lottin, who has come out smoking during his senior campaign. Lottin (sr., 6-7, 225 lbs.) has made 13 of his 21 attempts from three-point range so far this year, and is recording 19.3 points per game in just 26 minutes of action. He, along with Smith (7-15), is the Bonnies' only two serious three-point threats.
This game is all about shooting. West Virginia can defeat some teams by hitting 33% from three-point land and less than 40% overall, but it's not going to make any hay in the Big East by doing so. The Mountaineers need to prove to themselves that they can bounce back quickly from poor shooting nights to rip the cords in succeeding games, and the matchup against the Bonnies is the perfect opportunity for doing so. WVU can't afford to have shooting slumps that stretch out through four of five games, so now is the time for this team to forget the last two contests and nail some jumpers.
|Wed Nov 30|
Blue Cross Arena
WVU 2-3, 0-0
SB 2-1, 0-0
WVU - 139
SB - 161
Like WVU, St. Bonaventure sticks with an eight-man rotation for the most part, so matchups could be a big key in this game. West Virginia will have to account for the presence of Lottin, a super sub who provides instant offense off the bench, much in the same way that Patrick Beilein does for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia played one its worst games of the year a season ago, but St. Bonaventure was so dreadful that the Mountaineers still came away with a 15-point win. If WVU repeats that performance, the score will certainly be different, and perhaps not to the Mountaineers' liking.
SB: Tyler Relph (Foot) Out
Due to a delay in production of new Nike uniforms, St. Bonaventure will wear its old adidas uniforms for the first several games this season. Due to that, two players will be wearing different uniform numbers than they will the remainder of the season: A.J. Hawkins (25) is wearing 20 while Jeff Foote (40) is wearing 35.
I bet that UConn or Duke wouldn't meet with any "production delays" that would cause them to have to don old togs while the new ones are produced. Hopefully, SBU will flaunt huge adidas logs throughout their home away from home for this game.
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St. Bonaventure guard Ahmad Smith and Mike Gansey are both having great senior years to date, and their paths figure to cross again on Wednesday night. Gansey and Smith, who both lead their teams in scoring and in rebounding, are former roommates at SBU.
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The West Virginia and WVU ties in this game are many. In addition to Tyler Relph, who transferred to SBU prior to last year, and Gansey, who made the trip in the opposite direction, associate head coach Jayson Gee was the head coach at the University of Charleston from 1996-2003, while assistant coach John Brannen both played and coached at Marshall.
Regarding the swap of transfers, I'd say West Virginia got the better end of that deal.
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Falling under the twin categories of totally useless but eternally fascinating is West Virginia's record in Rochester. The Mountaineers have never faced St. Bonaventure there, having always traveled to Olean, N.Y. to face the Bonnies, but have faced an eclectic set of teams there. West Virginia split a pair of games against the Rochester Centers (guess they didn't have any forwards or guards) in 1920 and 1921, and moved their record to 2-1 all-time with a win over Baltimore in 1937. Odds are that WVU will score more on this trip than in those three combined, as they totaled just 64 points in the three contests.