Preview: West Virginia - Savannah State

After a week off for finals, West Virginia hosts Savannah State for the start of a six-game homestand.

SCOUTING THE TIGERS

Guard Javon Randolph leads the Tigers, having been their top scorer throughout the season. He averages 17.4 points per game, and thorough 12 games had taken 55 more shots than anyone else on the team. Randolph (Sr., 5-10, 160 lbs.) is susceptible to pressure, as he has almost four times as many turnovers as assists.

Backcourt mate Joe Flegler (Jr., 5-9, 165 lbs.) is the team's second leading scorer with a 9.3 points per game average. He is a bit more careful with the ball, but still isn't managing even a 1-1 assist to turnover ratio. In all, the Tigers have committed 244 turnovers against just 103 steals and 127 assists, which explains their struggles with competition at or above their level.

On the front line, forward Joshua Obiajunwa (Sr., 6-6, 210 lbs.) leads the team in rebounding with 8.8 per outing, and also chips in 8.7 rebounds per contest. While shooting just 39.6 percent from the field, he is tenacious on the boards and gets frequent second chances with his work on the offensive end. Center Lazarius Coleman (Sr., 6-8, 200 lbs.) is a steady contributor with 5.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, while the fifth starter, forward Chris Linton (So., 6-6, 195 lbs.), adds 4.4 points and 2.8 rebounds per outing.

Patrick Hardy gets the most minutes off the bench, averaging 17.8 per contest. Hardy (Fr., 6-3, 185 lbs.) scores 4.5 points per game while subbing for Flegler and Randolph in the backcourt. A player that perhaps should be seeing more time, or getting the ball more, is Bjorn Bohley (Jr. 6-9, 240 lbs.). The native of Martinique is the best percentage shooter on the squad from the field, hitting 58.3% of his shots in just 14.3 minutes of action. He has struggled at the free throw line, however, making just half of his 18 attempts. The eighth man in the rotation is guard Alvin Edwards, who sees about six minutes per half. He has taken just nine shots on the year, and thus is not a big offensive threat. However, Edwards (Jr. 5-7, 165 lbs.) is the only player with more assists (19) than turnovers (14) on the team.

OUTLOOK

Savannah State doesn't have the bulk to push West Virginia around, nor the skill in shooting the ball to match WVU's downtown range. Therefore, it must make the game ugly in order to win.

BlueGoldNews.com
Game Info
Sat Dec 16
4:00 p.m.

WVU Coliseum
Records
WVU 7-1, 0-0
SS 5-8, 0-0
Series
First Meeting
TV
None
RPI
WVU - 42
SS - 260
That will be the challenge for the still learning Mountaineer squad, which at times has been caught up in paces of play that are too quick for it to prosper. While WVU certainly wants to improve its transition and running game, it doesn't want to get into a mindset where it pushes the ball and takes a quick shot, especially a three-pointer, when it could instead set up the offense and get a look just as good, if not better. That's a trap that the Mountaineers fell into on their road trip to Duquesne, but it went a bit unnoticed as WVU drained 17 three-pointers in the contest in maintaining a comfortable lead throughout.

In this game, and over the next two, West Virginia must improve on its decision-making skills in transition, and also in making the "one more" pass – the final one in an offensive possession that turns a good look into a great one. It has show excellent progress to date, but it is still a long way from matching the proficiency of last year's team in that regard. That's to be expected, of course, but it is an area that has to improve quickly with Connecticut and the start of the Big East season looming just two weeks from now.

Some fans might moan about the quality of competition over the next three games, and avoid them in favor of some of the Big East showdowns to come. Hopefully WVU's players won't look at them in the same way, because there is a great deal of learning to be down as the Mountaineers settle in for a six-game homestand. The first three, against the Tigers, The Citadel and Maryland Eastern Shore, may not have the name sizzle of Connecticut or Villanova, but the outcomes, and the lessons learned therein, could have a great effect on the outcome of the season.

INJURY REPORT

WVU: None

SS: None

FAST BREAKS

John Beilein's emphasis on possessions is borne out in the WVU stat book. While foes have outrebounded the Mountaineers by 25 this year, West Virginia has recorded 55 more steals than its opponents. That's 30 extra possessions for West Virginia on the young season. The key to keeping that advantage will be to keep the rebounding margin from ballooning. Currently, WVU' deficit is a manageable 3.1.

WVU is also an incredible +94 in turnovers as compared to its foes. While that number might continue to rise over the next three games, it's not something that the Mountaineers will be able to count on against more poised and talented clubs in January and February.

* * *

Prior to taking the Savannah State job in 2005, head coach Horace Broadnax was a practicing lawyer. He had been out of the game for three years after leaving Bethune-Cookman following the 2001-02 season. Broadnax was the point guard on Georgetown's 1984 NCAA championship team.

* * *

Quick – who is West Virginia's leading percentage shooter from the floor? Before the season, not many people would have guess Rob Summers, but the big guy is making the most of his chances. Playing more comfortably with the ball in the post, the senior is 16-25 from the field (64%). And to prove it's not all uncontested layups, Summers is also a sparkling 5-6 from the free throw line.

* * *

The Tigers, who must fight the difficulties of being an independent team, have been a squad a streaks. They won their first five games of the season, but lost their next eight. All five of the wins were at home, while all of the losses except one (UMass) were on the road.

Included in the losses was a 74-53 decision to North Carolina State, while one of the wins was a 68-35 triumph over the Savannah College of Art & Design. I'd love to see that team's uniforms!


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