Preview: West Virginia - South Florida

West Virginia is on the road at South Florida, looking for its first Big East conference road win of the season


While big center Kentrell Gransberry gets much of the publicity for South Florida, he's not the only player capable of doing damage for the third-yer Big East team.

Gransberry (Sr., 6-9, 270 lbs.) is, of course, deserving of the accolades he receives. He averages a double-double, with 16.5 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, and might be the most dominant force in the lane in the Big East --and that includes Georgetown's Roy Hibbert. Gransberry's only weakness comes at the free throw line, where he hits just 55% of his tries.

Amu Saaka (So., 6-6, 205 lbs.) is a recent addition to the starting lineup, and teams with Gransberry up front, but his production has been minimal, as he tallies just 3.5 points and 1.8 rebounds per game.

It's in the backcourt where some underappreciated talent lies. All three guards average double figures in points, and the trio, all of which stand six feet, three inches or better, pose problems on the backboards as well.

Dominique Jones (Fr., 6-4, 205 lbs.) has already won several rookie of the week awards, and averages 15.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per contest. He's the team's best, but not only, three-point threat, making 42.5% of his long range tries, and also leads the team in steals with 35. Chris Howard (So., 6-3, 200 lbs.)keys the offense, but still finds time to chip in 11.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per outing. Finally, Jesus Verdejo (Jr., 6-4, 205 lbs.) averages 10.3 points per game as a very capable third option.

Off the bench Orane Chin (Fr., 6-7, 195 lbs.) gets more time than Saaka alongside Gransberry. Chin has 12 starts under his belt this year, and has played capably, putting up 5.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per contest. Solomon Bozeman (So., 6-0, 165 lbs.) is the primary sub off the bench in the backcourt, and sports a 5.8 points per game average, as well as an 88.5% free throw shooting average.


South Florida coach Stan Heath has two weapons to bear which could result in an upset of the Mountaineers.
Game Info
Sun Jan 20
2:00 p.m.

St. Pete Times Forum
WVU 13-4, 3-2
USF 10-8, 1-4
WVU 2-1
Sirius Channel: 122
WVU - 28
USF - 82
The first, of course, is Gransberry -- a post player for which the Mountaineers have no answer. WVU will likely have to play some zone, or some sort of double down man, in order to keep the ball out of the big man's hands. If Gransberry catches the ball on the blocks or in the lane consistently, it will mean trouble for West Virginia.

Heath can also deploy waves of substitutes in an effort to wear down WVU. Ten players have averaged at least eight minutes or more per game, so it won't be a surprise to see the Bulls try to push the tempo at points to force more time from West Virginia's bench players. In doing so, however, USF can't play so quickly that it ignores getting the ball to Gransberry. Taking quick shots in an attempt to do that would certainly be counterproductive.

For Bob Huggins, every game is a must win. For WVU and its physche, this one is doubly so. West Virginia needs to get a road win in order to put to bed any lingering demons from the Notre Dame and Louisville losses, and to also build a bit of confidence for more stringent road tests to come. There will be no better opportunity to do that in the short term than against the Bulls, who have some quality players but figure to struggle for a spot in the Big East tournament. Still, USF's four conference losses include three road games, so the Bulls certainly won't be a pushover.


WVU: Joe Mazzulla (Thigh) Will Play, Joe Alexander (Groin) Questionable

USF: Aamu Saaka (Nose) Probable


West Virginia set school record marks in the three-point field goal categories over the last three seasons, but this year it's a different all-time mark that could be under assault. The Mountaineers have forced 315 turnovers so far this season. The school record is 647 set in 1997-98.

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USF's Dominique Jones became the first Big East freshman in 13 years to score 30 or more points in consecutive games. The last Big East freshman to accomplish that feat was Georgetown's Allen Iverson in December, 1994.

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West Virginia has averaged more rebounds in its four losses than it has in its 13 wins. That seeming anomaly is explained by WVU's poor shooting percentage (37.2%) in those games, which allowed for more offensive rebounds.

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While USF's overall defensive statistics look good, their marks in conference play reveal some issues. In five league games, the Bulls are allowing foes to connect on 48.1% of their field goal tries, including 41% from beyond the arc. If West Virginia reaches those totals on Sunday, it will come away with a win.

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