Preview: West Virginia - Canisius

Although certainly not world beaters, Canisius will give West Virginia its best test to date in the young basketball season, and help the Mountaineers prepare for next week's Old Spice Classic


John Beilein's former team will bring a short but skilled squad to the Coliseum floor on Saturday.

The Griffins' experience is in the front court, where a trio of seniors combine to give Canisius the bulk of its experience. Darnell Wilson (6-6, 215) and Corey Herring (6-5, 210, each scored 17 points and snared three rebounds in the Griffins' opening loss to Buffalo. The bookend forwards are solidly built players who could give WVU's slender front line some problems in the land. They surround Ola Matti (6-7, 220) another bulky front courter who chipped in seven points and five rebounds against the Bulls. Matti is a transfer from Lamar University.

Junior guard Chuck Harris played an excellent floor game the first time out, scoring nine points while dishing out six assists and snaring a team high six rebounds. Harris (6-3, 185) is a big guard at the two spot who can provide matchup problems for some teams. West Virginia, with Alex Ruoff and Devan Bawinkel, will have to use its length the keep the ball out of Harris' hands. Sophomore Bret Wackerly (5-10, 160) runs the offense and defers to his more experienced teammates in many situations.

Canisius' bench, like that of West Virginia's, is loaded with freshmen. Six such newcomers dot the Griffins' roster, and only guard Frank Turner (5-10, 165) made any contribution in their first game, as he scored three points, dealt out three assists and snatched two rebounds. Junior forward Pawel Malesa (6-6, 240) was the only other significant contributor off the pine, as he scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds.


Considering Canisius' short bench productivity, look for West Virginia to try to establish its running game more in this contest.
Game Info
Sat Nov 18
4:00 p.m.

WVU Coliseum
WVU 2-0, 0-0
Can 0-1, 0-0
WVU 5-1
WVU - 12
Can - 286
This will be the last game until mid-December when the Mountaineers will enjoy a decided height advantage, so it's another chance for WVU to get some defensive rebounds and work on its running game. Of course, West Virginia won't just run for the sake of running, but one of the team's goals is to increase the number of transition baskets it scores.

West Virginia will also likely try to ratchet up its defensive pressure after seeing Canisius suffer 23 turnovers in its opener. That doesn't mean West Virginia will be pressing all over the court, but you can expect to see a couple of different versions of John Beilein's signature 1-3-1 zone, as well as another look at the man-to-man. With the Mountaineers staring down the gun barrel at a game with Montana just five days hence, the coaching staff will want as much information as possible with which to prepare a defensive strategy.

If all this sounds like WVU will coast through this game, then you've been misled. Canisius will provide a much better test than either The Mount or The Rock. While the Golden Griffins aren't a Big East-level team, they can certainly lay a test on the rebuilding Mountaineers.

West Virginia must continue to work on the timing and pacing of its offense, which has ranged from o.k. to bad during the first two games of the season. That's to be expected, of course. As Beilein is wont to say, "It's a process." But the process will have to be improved in a hurry, with some formidable opponents waiting in next week's Old Spice Classic in Orlando.


WVU: Jamie Smalligan (Ankle) Probable

Can: None


Four New York schools make up "The Big 4", which akin to Philadelphia's Big Five, play a season series against each other. In addition to Canisius, name the other three.

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Four Mountaineers (Da'Sean Butler, Darris Nichols, Joe Alexander and Devan Bawinkel) are shooting 50% or better from the field. That's not going to last as the competition gets tougher, but it will interesting to see if any of these four players can hold on at that level through the season.

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West Virginia and Canisius will complete the current contract for games next year with a contest in Buffalo.

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Last year, WVU averaged 29.3 three-point attempts per game. This year, through two contests, it is averaging 33.5. Whther that is a function of the defenses playedagainst WVU by those opponents or an indicator of West Virginia's continued reliance on the the three-pointer remains to be seen.

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Answer: Buffalo, St. Bonaventure and Niagara combine with Canisius to make up the Big 4.

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