SCOUTING THE VIKINGS
Head coach Gary Waters pieced together the first back-to-back 20-win seasons at Cleveland State since the late 1980s over the last two seasons. But the Vikings return just two starters and four players who saw reasonable action, making this a rebuilding year. State gets most of its scoring out of guards Norris Cole (6-2, 170 lbs.) and Trevon Harmon (6-1, 170 lbs.). Cole plays the shooting guard slot and averages 16.2 points per game. A solid shooter, the junior can hit from anywhere and averages 80 percent from the free throw line. Harmon, the point, scores more than 11 points and, like Cole, has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. Swingman D'Aundray Brown (6-4, 185 lbs.) isn't the scoring threat the guards are, but has a very good all-around game while making 47 percent from the floor and 43 percent from three-point range. The junior has taken just 14 threes this year, though, and doesn't get to the foul line well. Primarily a defensive player, his 4-plus rebounds a game rank second on the team. His 27 steals are first.
Forward Nigel Ajere (6-6, 225 lbs.) averages six points and four rebounds. The four-spot player will make just his third start of the season against the Mountaineers. An above-average rebounder, Ajere isn't an outside threat and won't take others off the bounce much. Center Aaron Pogue (6-9, 275 lbs.) has a solid body and the strength to bank with Kevin Jones or Devin Ebanks, who is listed as questionable. Pogue is nearing 50 percent shooting – which is great from the floor, but no so much from the foul line. If he has an easy hoop, WVU would be well-served to hack and put him on the line. An attacker on both ends, Pogue leads the team in boards at more than six per game. The interior play here is nothing West Virginia should not be able to handle, though Ajere is athletic and Pogue has shown flashes in some games this season. This is still a starting five lacking in experience, and the growing issues associated with such are evident at times.
Key reserves Jeremy Montgomery (6-2, 190 lbs.) and Jared Cunningham (6-9, 225 lbs.) both average about eight points per game. Montgomery, who plays 21 minutes, can score from anywhere on the floor. A better shooting guard than point player, the sophomore out of Chicago has made 18 of 19 free throws this season, but is prone to turnovers at times because of trying to do too much. Cunningham, a junior, can get to the basket or shoot it from the perimeter. He shows great energy off the bench (though he has started nine of 11 games thus far) and is often used by Waters for his leadership at crucial times. Reserve Tim Kamczyc (6-6, 195) redshirt last year while giving the starting five fits in practice. The ultimate nuts-and-bolts player, Kamczyc will chase loose balls, dive into passing lanes and plays physically within the rebounding and defensive game. He averages 15 minutes per game, and if those coincide with Cam Thoroughman, the show should be fun if both players don't get into foul trouble in the initial minutes. Kamczyc averages just three points, but does have a nice shooting touch. This isn't a major concern other than the edge and toughness he'll try to inflict.
Cleveland State has played well in stretches and below par in stretches. Primarily a guard-oriented team, if Cole and Harmon aren't hitting, the Vikings will have a tough time scoring. West Virginia's length should show up big in this one. Solid rebounding margins should go to the Mountaineers on both ends, and if WVU doesn't turn the ball over and can make some shots – the latter of which has been a struggle of late – it should be a blowout. Truck Bryant likely has the most difficult defensive match-up in this game, and it will be worth noting how Cleveland State tries to free its shooters for drives or dumps inside or out. WVU needs to play physically and show it is ready to respond to a road environment and to head coach Bob Huggins' comments on the lack of offensive flow. There are a precious few tune-up games remaining, and though it's early, now is the time for West Virginia to begin piecing together good offensive stretches. Those will mend themselves to each other to create good offensive games, but expecting one in this contest after a week layoff and finals could be a bit much. Mississippi, Seton Hall, Marquette and Purdue loom in the next four, so improvement is a must.
|Sat. Dec. 19
2:00 p.m. EST
WVU 7-0, 0-0
CSU 4-7, 0-0
Big East Network
|Sirius Channel: 129 (CSU)|
WVU - 3
CSU - 275
CSU: G Josh McCoy (Hip) – Out Indefinitely.
The game is part of Cleveland State's John McClendon Classic. The school, terming a pair of games involving the men's and women's teams the ‘Big Holiday Showdown,' has upped its usual game atmosphere by giving away 1,000 T-shirts, selling hot dogs for $1 and having a KidZone area. CSU's women's team plays Indiana following the men's match-up.
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Da'Sean Butler is now 12th on the all-time WVU scoring list. The point watch will take a hiatus for a few games, as Butler trails 11th-place Damien Owens by 59 points. He will likely top that mark around the New Year.
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The first series meeting came during the 1976-77 season. WVU head coach Bob Huggins played in that game, as coring seven points in a 107-69 Mountaineer win. West Virginia won the second series game by 10 in Cleveland a year later. It is 9-3 against current members of the Horizon League.
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Huggins is 7-5 against Cleveland State as a coach. He went 1-5 all-time while at Akron, 4-0 at Cincinnati and 1-0 at both Kansas State and WVU. He is 3-0 all-time against CSU head coach Gary Waters, who used to coach at Rutgers. Huggins' Cincinnati team beat Waters' Kent State team in the 2001 NCAA Tournament. Waters is 4-4 all-time against the Mountaineers.
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The Big East has four of the remaining 11 unbeaten teams in Division I men's basketball.