Preview: WVU - Arkansas Monticello

West Virginia opens the season in the StubHub! Legends Classic against Division II Arkansas-Monticello of the Big South Conference


UAM started off the season with a 77-72 exhibition win over the Mississippi College Choctaws (love these Division II names!) but were blasted by future Mountaineer opponent Tennessee on Wednesday night by the score of 101-44.

The Boll Weevils run a three guard, two forward lineup, and while they can put some 6-9 bodies on the floor, appear to be set on running a smaller, quicker lineup.

In the backcourt for UAM, guard Deron Brown (5-10, 165 lbs.) leads the way. He scored 11 points and had four assists against the Vols, but also suffered six turnovers against their harassing defense. True freshman Justin Johnson (6-4, 200 lbs.) and junior Duke Sturdivant (6-1, 210 lbs.) are solidly built backcourt players, but may have trouble matching up to some of the taller players they will be called on to defend. Sturdivant scored 30 points in the Boll Weevils' exhibition clash, but managed just five on 2-11 shooting against Tennessee.

Up front, junior Byron Wickes (6-6, 215 lbs.) and sophomore Derek Easter (6-6, 190 lbs.) are active players who might create some driving chances against bigger foes, but they were unable to do so against Tennessee. UAM opted to start sophomore Jermaine Samuels (6-8, 225 lbs.) in an attempt to combat UT inside, and he did manage to secure seven rebounds in 25 minutes of action. The Boll Weevils could also deploy Bernard Seymour (6-9, 240 lbs.) who saw 25 minutes of action against the Vols.


UAM's smaller lineup probably won't hurt them as much against West Virginia as it will against some of the other Division I foes it faces, as the Mountaineers aren't built to pound the ball inside to the post.
Game Info
Fri Nov 16
8:00 p.m.

WVU Coliseum
WVU 0-0, 0-0
UAM 0-1, 0-0
WVU 1-0
Sirius Channel: 153
That doesn't mean, however, that the visitors will have an advantage over WVU on either end of the floor. WVU will likely find driving the ball to the basket a bit easier than it was in its exhibition game last weekend, as UAM doesn't look to have the height or strength to cut off forays from WVU's guards and forwards. Players such as DaSean Butler and Joe Alexander should be able to get penetration from the wings, and drives and dishes from guards Darris Nichols and Joe Mazzulla should also be available.

UAM could choose to play zone, which would actually be a good test for WVU. Although the automatic response would be to hoist three-pointers, the Mountaineers need to be able to find a balance between settling for outside jumpers and finding ways to penetrate against zone defenses, which it will certainly see from much better teams later in the year. While head coach Bob Huggins is certainly not anti-three pointer, the last thing he wants to see is West Virginia settling for 35 or 40 three-pointers in a contest. That's a habit that the Mountaineers will have to break, and a zone look from the Boll Weevils would give them a chance to work on that phase of the game.

One other item to watch for in the game is the manner in which WVU employs its man-to-man defense. While the Mountaineers went wire to wire against Mountain State with that look, the desired intensity and pressure on the ball certainly wasn't at the desired level. Whether West Virginia is able to press full court with its current squad is still in question, but there is no doubt that it must play more aggressively in order to be successful on the defensive end. WVU must not sit back, especially when faced with screens and picks, as that allows far too many open looks and driving lanes to the basket.


WVU: Cam Thoroughman (Knee) Probable, Will Thomas (Leg) Probable

UAM: None Reported


Only five of the players listed on UAM's 13-man preseason roster came to the program directly out of high school. The other eight are transfers from colleges at various levels. To make matters more difficult, three of the five high schoolers are first year players, while the other two are sophomores with just one year of experience. Trying to mold a team with such little time together is a challenge many lower level programs face, but UAM head coach Mike Newell has almost an impossible task in doing so.

* * *

Huggins is hoping for a packed house when the Mountaineers take on the Boll Weevils, but West Virginia fans aren't likely to fulfill that wish. Although WVU sold a school record 6,600 season tickets, many of those are purchased by corporate interests, not general fans. Thus, empty seats often litter the lower level for games that are perceived to be "not as important".

Of course, Huggins isn't off base in expecting and hoping for packed houses. The success that West Virginia has produced over the past few seasons would seem to demand it. However, the Mountaineer fan base is teetering on the edge of complacency, so it will be interesting to see what the actual attendance (not the announced crowd) looks like for WVU's early home games.

* * *

It has been six years since West Virginia had a player snare at least 15 rebounds in one game. Forward Chris Moss last turned the trick on Nov. 16, 2001 against UNC-Asheville.

* * *

For West Virginia to win consistently this year, and better its tenth-place predicted finish, the thinking here is that Darris Nichols will have to be a 20-point per game scorer. Despite tough competition, there is no reason he can't achieve that plateau, providing he takes advantage of all the opportunities he has to take the ball to the basket.

* * *

Women's athletics teams at Arkansas-Monticello go by the nickname "Cotton Blossoms".

BlueGoldNews Top Stories