SCOUTING THE DUKES
Duquesne is led by the guard-forward combination of Aaron Jackson and Damian Saunders. Jackson, a 6-4, 185 pound point guard, is hitting for a team-best 17.9 points per game with six boards. The senior attacks the basket more often than settling for a jumper, an aspect that has enabled him to lead the team in free throws attempted and made. A 58.4 percent shooter from the field, Jackson would prefer close looks to shots from three-point range. He also has a sizzling assist-to-turnover ratio of more than two-to-one and 20 steals. Saunders, 6-7, 210 pounds, has actually taken more threes than Jackson, a Bob Cousy Award nominee, and has a better percentage. He is above-average on the offensive glass and gets about three putback chances per game while leading the team with 20 blocks. An All-Atlantic 10 freshman last year, Saunders combines great athletic ability with emerging skillsets.
Guards Jason Duty and Melquan Bolding combine for 12 points and six rebounds per ganme. Duty, a 6-1, 195-pound junior, mans what amounts to the two slot while Bolding, 6-4, 190 pounds, is essentially a swingman. Duty is a better shooter than his numbers indicate (31 percent from the floor, 34.6 from three-point range), but doesn't jump out on the floor. He's steady, however, and doesn't make the crucial mistake for head coach Ronnie Everhart. Bolding, who has started just two of seven games, plays less than half the time. He's not shooting as well as the staff would like, or finishing effectively, leading to deceptively low numbers. Only a freshman, Bolding is still adapting to the college game. There's potential, and he was a great addition for the Dukes. Forward Bill Clark is the other starter. At 6-5 and 205 pounds, he is the most built of DU's players and his 10 points and four rebounds per game come via good interior play and good understanding of scoring around the rim. He's the best interior defensive player as well, and he won't hesitate to hack if a foe threatens with an uncontested look.
Reserves B.J. Montiero and Eric Evans are playing 12 and 23-plus minutes per game, respectively. Everhart is comfortable with the duo, but can only go seven deep and keep high-level talent on the floor. Montiero, a 6-5, 195-pounder, is listed as a guard/forward combo, which is typical on the West Virginia native's teams. All Everhart's players tend to be of similar build and height, with Montiero, a five-game starter this year, the perfect back-up. He can fit a variety of positions and is a solid defender. He is another of the Dukes that has not shot well, though, and that lack of scoring will cost DU a game by the end of the slate. Evans, 5-11, 195 pounds, is obviously used in the backcourt. The freshman Detroit native was recruited by current Duquesne assistant Steve Hall, who coached Evans in high school. His 9.4 points per game are solid, but he is struggling with turnovers and often plays at a greater pace than his developing grasp on the game can handle.
This is a game West Virginia should win. But Duquesne, among the youngest teams in the nation with eight scholarship freshmen, has yet to be challenged in its five wins, and its losses were at Duke and at Pitt. DU crushed Radford on the road, and has bonded – if not jelled - early because of the high level of competition and four road games in the first six. The team is far more seasoned in terms of playing level than what WVU has faced in past trips to the Palumbo Center, and the Dukes are no longer the pushover they were when the Mountaineers beat them the last two series games by a combined 55 points. Their length is better all over the floor, and they have more younger players getting minutes, meaning the talent level is increasing.
|Sat. Dec. 13
7 p.m. EST
A.J. Palumbo Center
West Virginia 47-36
WVU - 52
Duquesne - 116
The Mountaineers still have a bit more ability. This game would be much easier if Alex Ruoff and, especially, Joe Mazzulla were to play. Both are questionable with shoulder injuries, and putting a freshman out there in Truck Bryant in a strange gym that feels more like high school than college could hinder the entire team. This match-up was going to be about finishing and guard play, as both teams will get up and down the floor. Mazzulla would give West Virginia a solid edge. As it is now, that advantage is minute at best as John Flowers is expected to make his second straight start. Without Ruoff to force opponents out from the basket, Duquesne might choose to pack it in and make other outside players beat it. None has shown the ability of yet.
This is really little more than a good challenge for WVU. It has the better players, and should find a way to win on the floor of an A-10 foe. Duquesne is still turning the ball over too much, is missing almost as many free throws percentage-wise as West Virginia, is getting outrebounded (Devin Ebanks will loom large in more than just size) and isn't particularly impressive individually or as a unit. But in that gym, where the Mountaineers have managed just a split in the last 10, anything goes.
WVU: Joe Mazzulla, Questionable (shoulder bruise), Alex Ruoff, Questionable (shoulder bruise), Jonnie West, Out (broken foot).
Duquesne: David Theis, Probable (kidney bruise).
This is the 36th straight season the two teams have played. WVU has won the last five, two of which were in Pittsburgh. This is the final of six away games in seven for the Mountaineers. In the last 18 days, the team has played in six different cities and three different time zones.
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Da'Sean Butler is 33 points away from 1,000 for his collegiate career. Ebanks became the first WVU freshman to post consecutive games of 17 or more rebounds. The last player with at least 17 rebounds in two straight games was Maurice Robinson in 1977. The Mountaineers can get their 60th win since the start of the 2006 season. Head coach Bon Huggins needs three more wins to pass Norm Sloan for 28th place on the all-time NCAA coaches list.
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Everhart is 1-3 versus West Virginia. He won at WVU with Northeastern. He has lost twice with Duquesne and once with McNeese State. This is the 85th game in a series that started in 1915. The teams were in the same conference for 19 seasons (Eastern 8 and A-10). Huggins is 2-0 against DU and 2-0 versus Everhart.
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Duquesne is on an 11-game losing streak to Big East teams. Five of those defeats have come against West Virginia. Pitt has beaten DU six straight times.