Preview: West Virginia - The Citadel

WVU takes on the icon of southern military schools when it hosts The Citadel on Wedensday evening.

The Citadel is outmanned when facing upper echelon Division I foes, which, combined with a team shooting percentage of just 39.6%, makes it quite difficult to spring upsets on teams outside the Southern Conference SCOUTING THE BULLDOGS

With only one player taller than 6-6 on its roster, The Citadel isn't going to overpower many foes in the lane. However, the Bulldogs don't sparkle in three-point shooting either, so they have to depend on other fundamentals in order to eke out wins, which have been few so far this year.

The Bulldogs do have a nice scoring balance in their starting lineup, but even that strength has taken a hit, as forward J'Mel Everhart isn't expected to make the trip to the Mountain State. The senior forward (6-6, 205 lbs.) missed the Bulldogs' last game against Western Carolina, and is expected to miss the WVU contest as well. Without his 9.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, the Bulldogs will be even more hard pressed to spring an upset against the homestanding Mountaineers.

On the front line, fellow forward Demetrius Nelson will try to pick up the slack in Everhart's absence, but there might not be much more that the strong forward can do. Nelson (Jr., 6-8, 250 lbs.) averages 8.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, but he will have to boost those numbers to keep the Bulldogs in the game. Bryan Streeter (Fr., 6-6, 215 lbs.) will be Everhart's likely replacement on the front line. He has averaged 2.5 points and 2.7 rebounds per outing, and has two starts on the season. Joseph Thompson (Sr., 6-6, 235 lbs.) will likely see more than his average of 8.4 minutes per game as The Citadel tries to find a fill-in for Everhart.

The Citadel typically runs a three-guard set, but the Bulldogs could go with four guards at times with their depleted lineup. Kevin Hammack (Sr., 6-1, 190 lbs.) directs the attack from the backcourt. He averages 10.8 points and just more than three assists per game, and does a solid job of keeping the Bulldog offense running. He is also a respectable shooter from both the field and three-point line, so he can't be ignored as an offensive threat.

Donny McClendon (Sr., 6-0, 175 lbs.), like Hammack, has started every game to date, and is the Bulldogs' leading scorer at 12.8 points per game. He's the chief three-point threat, hitting 39.2% of his long shots, and doesn't give the ball up a great deal when he gets it. He has just nine assists to date, and has combined with Hammack to take 260 of The Citadel's 654 shots from the field.

Jonathan Brick, who moved into the starting lineup two games ago, will likely again get the nod at the third guard slot. He averages just 2.7 points per game.

Off the bench, guard Vytautas Valiulis (So., 6-1, 180 lbs.) gets almost as much time as McClendon on the floor. The Lithuanian averages 6.4 points and 2.1 rebounds per game, and has the best assist to turnover ratio on the team, at nearly 2-1. Chris Diasparra (So., 6-2, 195 lbs.) also sees plenty of court time, but averages just 4.1 points per game, mostly due to a 25.5% field goal percentage mark.

OUTLOOK

The middle game in WVU's trio of warm-ups for Big East Conference play should result in another victory for the Mountaineers, but West Virginia needs to work on diversifying its attack a bit before the big boys begin paying visits to the WVU Coliseum.

BlueGoldNews.com
Game Info
Wed Dec 20
7:00 p.m.

WVU Coliseum
Records
WVU 8-1, 0-0
CIT 2-9, 0-2
Series
WVU 6-2
TV
None
RPI
WVU - 60
CIT - 276
Although the Mountaineers, as expected, have rolled over lesser opposition, there has to be a bit of concern with the way in which WVU has done so. The Mountaineers have continued to rely almost exclusively on three-pointers and transition baskets off turnovers to rack up easy wins over Western Michigan, Duquesne and Savannah State, and while that's certainly not a negative, there have been some troubling absences, particularly against the height challenged Tigers. West Virginia might have been expected to get the ball into the post a bit more against its shorter foes, but that hasn't happened as much as might be desired. While the absence of a post game didn't make any difference against Savannah State, and likely won't against WVU's next two foes, it will later on down the line.

Understand that no one is expecting Rob Summers or Jamie Smalligan to average a double-double, or set up on the low block every trip down the court and make a back to the basket post move for a shot. That's not the forte of WVU's big men. However, in order to make the other parts of their games more effective, occasionally they will have to get the ball down deep and make a power move to the basket.

That they haven't done so a great deal in the past two games has been due to a variety of circumstances. West Virginia has been getting good shots from its half court offense, and thus the opportunities to move the ball inside late in a play have been limited. Smalligan has struggled defensively for a couple of games, which has limited his playing time, and thus his chances to take the ball inside. And while he is a very good three-point shooter, he will need to complement his game with some shots from the paint in order to keep opposing defenses from cheating out to the three-point line to cover him.

While the Mountaineers certainly aren't going to be Pitt or Georgetown in dumping the ball inside to big guys on the blocks, they do need to at least get a few touches inside to show opponents they can't abandon coverage in the lane. Look for the Mountaineers to work on this aspect of their game against the Bulldogs on Wednesday.

INJURY REPORT

WVU: Joe Alexander (Ankle) Will Play

CIT: J'Mel Everhart (Knee) Out

FAST BREAKS

The Citadel's main shortcoming is that it simply doesn't shoot the ball well. As noted at the top, the Bulldogs make just 39.6% of their shots from the field, including just 31% from beyond the arc. Add in an ugly 58.3% mark from the free throw line, and it's easy to see why their record is 2-9.

* * *

In 33 games last year, West Virginia managed 258 offensive rebounds, for an average of 7.2 per game. Through nine outings this season, the Mountaineers have already snared 94 offensive caroms – an average of 10.4 per game. It may not look like a huge gain, but that's three additional possessions per game for WVU – a stat that head coach John Beilein truly values.

* * *

Contrary to popular belief, The Citadel is not a private school. It is a state-supported public institution. Its full name is The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina.

The Citadel is coached by Ed Conroy, whose cousin Pat wrote the best-selling books The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline and The Prince of Tides. Ed Conroy is a former Citadel basketballer (1985-89) who stands seventh on the school's single season free throw shooting percentage list at 81.5%. (The Bulldogs' current free throw shooting woes must have him pulling his hair out.) Pat was also a guard at The Citadel, and chronicles his time there in his latest book My Losing Season.

* * *

Despite West Virginia's increase in defensive intensity and effectiveness, the Mountaineers continue to be one of the more disciplined defensive squads in the country. WVU is fourth in the nation in fewest personal fouls per game, having committed just 124 (13.7 per game) this year. This, despite the fact that West Virginia leads the nation in scoring defense and is third in the country in steals.

Obviously, some of these stats are due to the level of the competition WVU has faced in its games to date, but there's more to this than just the raw numbers. West Virginia is playing with sound defensive principles (not reaching or committing silly fouls) in racking up these stats, and while the Mountaineers can't expect to continue forcing 27 turnovers per game, the good work habits they are evincing to date should still produce good results against Big East foes in January and February.


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