Hall Pass

Coming off a momentum-building win over Georgetown, the Mountaineer men's basketball team is in position to cap a successful three-game road swing if it can hold off up and down Seton Hall on Tuesday.

SCOUTING THE PIRATES

Seton Hall features a classic inside/outside scoring combination that can be difficult to deal with. Guards Donald Copeland (Sr., 5-10, 170 lbs.) and Jamar Nutter (Jr., 6-2, 205) form a nicely balanced pair in the backcourt. Copeland handles the point and directs the offense effectively, but has a shoot first mentality, as his team-leading 15.7 points per game attest. He is also the team's leading three-point scorer, averaging just more than two treys per game. Nutter adds 12.1 points per outing, and is also an effective rebounder, tallying 4.2 per contest, which puts him second on the team in that category.

The frontcourt star is Kelly Whitney, a strong forward who operates exclusively inside. Whitney (Sr., 6-8, 240 lbs.) averages 15.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, and gives opponents matchup problems with his size and strength. When paired with center Grant Billmeier (Jr, 6-10, 250 lbs.) Whitney is often able to overpower opposing power forwards. Billmeier averages 4.0 points and 3.7 rebounds per contest – numbers that should improve since his elevation to the starting lineup. The fifth starter, Brain Laing (So., 6-5, 215 lbs.) can play either guard or forward, and provides a serviceable 6.1 points per game.

The Pirate bench is filled with playing experience. Forward Stan Gaines (Jr., 6-7, 240 lbs.) had started every game before suffering facial fractures against Villanova. If he returns against WVU, his 5.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and tough defense will certainly give a boost to the Pirates on both ends of the floor. Frontliner Marcus Cousin (So., 6-10, 245 lbs.) gives the Hall even more height and bulk up front, and although he is still looking to find his niche offensively, helps on the boards by averaging four retrievals in fewer than 15 minutes per game. Guard Paul Gause (Fr., 5-11, 190 lbs.) has adapted quickly to collegiate play, and is SHU's top sub off the bench in the backcourt with 6.3 points per contest, while forward David Palmer (Fr., 6-9, 240 lbs.) rounds out the Pirates' nine-man rotation with an efficient 3.3 points and 2.1 rebounds in just more than 10 minutes of play per game.

OUTLOOK

While Seton Hall was crushed by Duke and UConn while both teams were #1 in the country, it also has some impressive wins on its resume. Back-to-back road wins at ranked N.C. State and Syracuse should be enough evidence that the Pirates are capable of hanging a loss on just about any Big East team.

BlueGoldNews.com
Game Info
Tue Feb 14
7:30 p.m.

Continental Airlines Arena
Records
WVU 18-5, 9-1
SH 15-7 6-4
Series
SH 10-9
TV
FSN Pittsburgh
RPI
WVU - 18
SH - 33
The Pirates' problem, however, has been scoring consistency. Three times this year, Seton Hall has scored fewer than 50 points, and its 41.7% mark from the field has led to some uneven offensive performances. Also contributing is the lack of a three-point component, as the Pirates average just 5.6 treys per game. If the Pirates can make a few shots from beyond the arc, they can play with most teams. If, however, their shots aren't falling, they must rely on stingy defense and physical play in order to stay in games.

For WVU, this is the first of three consecutive two-games-in-three-days sets. With fatigue certainly the biggest factor in West Virginia's February play, this is both good and bad news. The second games of these sets will all be difficult, owing to the fact that the Mountaineers will have little prep time for the back end game. However, over the horizon, the extended rest periods of three and four days following the weekend's action could allow WVU the recovery time it needs to head into the postseason with more energy.

First, however, the Mountaineers must find a way to battle through the second game of each series, starting with Seton Hall. The Pirates, who are fighting for position in the Big East tournament, as well as coach Louis Orr's job, have the advantage of an extra day's rest, plus the home venue, in this matchup. After a three-game stretch of high-tempo action, look for WVU to make an extra effort to stretch out possessions and shorten the game as much as possible, but the Mountaineers must also not fall into the trap of letting fatigue dictate their offensive strategy. Seton Hall will likely try to duplicate the tactics of recent foes by crowding West Virginia on the perimeter and forcing the Mountaineers to put the ball on the floor. That is obviously more tiring than shooting three-pointers, but it also is the surer path to another road win.

INJURY REPORT

WVU: None

SH: John Garcia (Knee) Out; Mani Messy (Hand) Out; Jamar Nutter (Tailbone) Probable; Stan Gaines (Head) Questionable

FAST BREAKS

Like West Virginia, Seton Hall doesn't panic when it gets behind. The Pirates have recorded second half comebacks in four of its five conference wins, including a rally from 20 points down with nine minutes to play against St. John's and a 12-point rally against South Florida with just 3:45 to go. The Pirates have outscored teams in the last two minutes of regulation by a score of 35-6 in its five league wins.

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Another game, another Joe Herber record watch. Against the Pirates, Joe will break the all-time starts record of 118, currently held by Chris Brooks. Herber already holds the all-time consecutive starts mark and the all-time minutes played mark, and will soon pass the 1,000-points scored milestone.

* * *

WVU has 197 fewer turnovers than its opponents this year. That works out to an average of 8.5 more possession per game for the Mountaineers, which just about offsets WVU's rebounding margin of –9.1.

* * *

Seton Hall's 42-point loss to UConn on Saturday was the worst loss in the history of the Big East regular season. That blowout, combined with a 53-point pasting at the hands of Duke, have overshadowed the Pirates' mostly solid play this year.


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