SCOUTING THE PIRATES
Seton Hall gets balanced scoring from four of its five starters, and has solid contributions from a pair of bench players as well. The Pirates are on a four game losing streak, however, and need to get a win in order to avoid a pitched battle for a trip to the Big East tournament.
Forward Brian Laing is the big gun on the front line, as he averages 19 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. He can step outside and hit the occasional three, but does much of his damage from the midrange in. Laing (Sr., 6-5, 215 lbs.) attacks the basket well, and draws his share of fouls, which he often turns into points due to his 83.8% mark from the line. Add in 42 steals, and the picture of a well-rounded slasher that scores a variety of ways emerges. Center Mike Davis (Fr., 6-11, 255 lbs.) is a starter much in the nature of WVU's Jamie Smalligan, as he averages just a shade under ten minutes per contest. He does contribute 2.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.
The Pirates balance things out with a trio of backcourt starters averaging in double figures. Jamar Nutter (Sr., 6-2, 205 lbs.) leads in the experience factor, but his 10.5 points per game is a bit offset with a negative assist to turnover ratio (42-51 on the season). He makes up for that, however, by nailing 40.3% of his treys – a fact that head coach Bob Huggins will surely be drilling into his team's heads. Eugene Harvey, the next big Seton Hall star, tallies 14.8 points and 3.2 rebounds per outing while playing nearly 37 minutes per contest. Harvey (So., 6-0, 165 lbs.) is another slasher who averages nearly seven trips to the free throw line per game. He is the only player with appreciable minutes that has more assists than turnovers this year. Jeremy Hazell (Fr., 6-5, 185 lbs.) rounds out the group with 12.4 points per contest. He bombs away from the outside, taking 183 of his 254 shots from beyond the arc.
John Garcia and Augustine Okosun provide the bulk of the minutes at center. Garcia (So., 6-9, 265 lbs.) tallies 6.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, while Okosun (Jr., 6-11, 240 lbs.) gives almost ten minutes and 2.2 rebounds per contest. Guard Larry Davis (So., 6-4, 185 lbs.) nabs most of the available backup time in the backcourt. He sees more than 22 minutes per outing, and averages 5.5 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
Look for Seton Hall, with its strong lineup, to bang with West Virginia in an attempt to throw the Mountaineers out of sync.
|Sun Feb 17
WVU 17-7, 6-5
SH 15-10, 5-7
|Sirius Channel: 143|
WVU - 41
SH - 67
The second key for WVU in this game lies in how it defends Seton Hall's shooters. Quite simply, the Hall doesn't shy away from putting up shots at the first opportunity. If West Virginia isn't closing out aggressively on threes, or putting obstacles in the way of Laing and Harvey on drives, then the Pirates are likely to get more than their share of good looks at the basket. And for a team that averages 79.3 points per game, that's not a recipe for a win.
This is game two on WVU's must-win streak of five contests, and it's certainly another step up in competition. While the Mountaineers won't talk about having to run off so many wins in a row, they have sad they "know what they have to do" in order to get back into the race for an NCAA bid. This game is another step in that process, and even if the fans don't realize it (Thursday's crowd showing against Rutgers was pathetic), the team does. WVU would move into a tie for sixth place with a win over the Pirates, and with the top four teams all having three losses, the Mountaineers would have a least an outside chance of nabbing a fourth-place finish in the league.
WVU: Alex Ruoff (Nose) Will Play
SH: Paul Gause (Knee) Out
Nine of the ten players on Seton Hall's roster hail from New Jersey or New York. Only Augustine Okosun (Benin City, Nigeria) hails from outside the bounds of those two states.
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When he steps onto the floor for the opening tip against the Pirates, Darris Nichols will break a five-way tie for most career games played as a Mountaineer. Nichols will be participating in his 129th game for WVU, and he will leave Joe Herber, Kevin Pittsnogle, Patrick Beilein and J.D. Collins tied for second. That quartet all played from 2003-06, and was the primary linchpins in the rejuvenation of the Mountaineer basketball program.
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The White Castle hamburger chain is an official sponsor of Seton Hall basketball, and puts on six promotions per year wherein the mini-burger maker provides meals, along with tickets, to Pirate games. Insert your own "sliders" joke here.
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All time, West Virginia's worst winning percentage by the day of the week is on Sunday. Coming into this season, the Mountaineers were just 39-32 for a winning percentage of 54.9&. However, WVU has improved that mark this year, having gone 4-0 with wins over Prairie View A&M, Syracuse, Marquette and South Florida. Barring a Sunday game in a post-season tournament, this will be WVU's final Sunday contest of the season.