UNCG features a classic one-two scoring punch in the form of junior guard Jay Joseph (15.2 ppg) and senior forward James Maye (14.4). Joseph put 27 points up on Kansas, so his scoring ability will be a focal point of the Mountaineer defensive gameplan.
Joining Joseph in the backcourt is junior point guard Ronnie Taylor. Taylor averages 9.6 points per outing while running the team. However, his career high of 20 points came against WVU back in 2000, so the Mountaineers will have to be aware of him as well.
Frontcourt productivity has been a concern for UNCG this year. Other than Joseph there hasn't been a great deal of scoring for the Spartans inside. Senior center Luke Boythe (4.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg) and sophomore forward Ronnie Burrell (5.4, 5.4) have been workmanlike, but not spectacular. Boythe provides the muscle inside at 6-7 and 235 pounds, while the other Spartans rely more on quickness and agility. Burrell is the Spartans' defensive leader with 11 blocked shots.
The mainstays of the Spartan bench are sophomore forward Tizzo Johnson (6.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and freshman guard Ray Bristow 98.4 ppg).
Despite getting fewer shots than their opponents this year, UNCG is still averaging 72 points per game -- a testament to their shooting. The Spartans shoot 46% from the field, including an outstanding 40% from three point range, so they know what to do with the ball when they get it.
WVU forward Drew Schifino vs. UNCG forward James Maye
This is a classic battle at an unconventional position. Both Schifino and Maye are a bit undersized for forwards, but in the sturcture of their offenses they are good fits for the position.
WVU 3-1, 0-0
UNCG 3-2, 0-0
|Sat 12/7 4:00 PM|
WVU leads 2-0
WVU - 124
UNCG - 185
On the defensive end, watch Schifino as he battles Maye and other bigger opponents in the post. Schifino's defense has greatly improved during his time at WVU, and he's now learning to combine his excellent hand quickness and anticipation with the fundamentals of positioning and body control.
Against Maye, Schifino will try to deny passes inside and harrass his bigger opponent when he puts the ball on the floor. It should be an interesting contest.
West Virginia's biggest challenge in this game is staying focused on what they do best. That's not meant as a slap at UNCG, because they definitely have the talent to win this game. Rather, it's an observation that WVU must continue to execute their offense with the attention to detail that allowed them to upset the Gators.
The danger after a big win is seeing a team get too fired up. Out of sheer enthusiasm, they can sometimes try to do things they're either not capable of, or are outside the framework of what has gotten them wins in the past. That's not an indicator of a bad team -- just one that is still young and inexperienced, especially in dealing with success.
Watch how WVU comes out and plays the first few minutes of the game. If they are calm and run their offense they way that the coaches want it to be run, then they will be fine. If not, expect to see a quick timeout and some personnel changes to get the young players settled down.
UNCG, from the Southern Conference, doesn't have the big bodies that Florida or James Madison featured, but that doesn't mean they can't get to the boards. Sometimes, smaller, quicker players provide more challenges on the glass that the big boys do. Once again, it's a quesiton of fundamentals for the Mountaineers, as they are still working to learn the intricacies of boxing out and rebounding from their 1-3-1 defense.
UNCG has featured the same starting five in every game this year. The Spartans play a nine man rotation in most of their contests.
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Guard Jay Joseph has started every game of his career at UNCG. He's at 67 and counting
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The Spartans have 71 assists and 85 turnovers on the season. That's one area where WVU appears to have a big advantage - the Mountaineers have 59 assists and only 38 turnovers.
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UNCG Coach Fran McCaffery is no stranger to Morgantown. In addition to his one visit with UNCG, he saw WVU as an assistant at Notre Dame for 10 seasons.