Preview: Rutgers

West Virginia plays Rutgers at 7 p.m. tonight looking to stay unbeaten in Big East play through three games.


Rutgers is one of the few WVU foes thus far that utilize a traditional two-guard, two-forward one-center line-up. The point distribution – four players average between nine and 18 points – is solid, led by guard Mike Rosario (6-3, 190 lbs.). The sophomore talent plays a team-best 34 minutes per game and has taken 70 more shots than any other Scarlet Knight. He is making 42 percent from the field , but is right at the basketball version of the Mendoza line at 35 percent from three. He is solid at the foul line and is surprisingly adept on the offensive glass. The Big East All-Rookie also has 15 steals, though he has racked up more turnovers than assists. He penetrates well, but isn't extremely explosive off the dribble. Point guard Mike Coburn (6-0,185 lbs.) hits for seven points and has nearly a two-to-one assist to turnover ratio. He is a distributor without question, as his shooting is average inside the arc and far below outside it. WVU doesn't need to fret about him putting anything up from deep – but it will have to contain him and cut off open passing lanes and be aware of how he is playing on defense. With two solid guards, head coach Fred Hill is increasingly able to utilize a variety of defenses and put pressure on opposing guards. This could cause West Virginia trouble, as the Mountaineers have not handled pressure well. Truck Bryant is not expected to start again, though head coach Bob Huggins will surely use him during the game. Rutgers' defensive strategy could be among the more varied WVU has played, and how it is handled will dictate everything from pace to momentum and flow.
Game Info
Wed. Jan. 6
7:00 p.m. EST

WVU Coliseum
WVU 11-1, 2-0 Big East
RU 9-4, 0-1 Big East
WVU 42-26
Big East Network
Sirius Channel: 126
DirecTV: 639, 659
WVU - 1
RU - 148
Starting forwards Patrick Jackson (6-6, 210 lbs.) and Jonathan Mitchell (6-7, 225 lbs.) combine for about 13 poins per game, though Jackson scores just four of those. He plays just 16 minutes per game, and has not shot well thus far. Jackson is a serviceable starer, but not much else. Mitchell, a redshirt junior, won a national title at Florida before transferring, and he has become he team's best rebounder while flashing some scoring ability. The left-hander finishes well, and his inside-out style fits well in the Rutgers offense. Center Hamady Ndiaye (7-0, 235 lbs.) is a load inside. The Senegal naïve is fifth in school history in blocks and will challenge Kevin Jones and Devin Ebanks inside. He has length, and his experience and solid play against good teams is belied by his ability to defend most offensive styles well. He averages 10 points and five rebounds and has 65 blocks this year. He won't shoot outside, and has been forced to play more minutes as backup center/forward Gregory Echenique will miss he rest of he season after having eye surgery.

The Knights go about eight deep, with a pair of solid reserves at the forward slot. Dane Miller (6-7, 210 lbs.) and James Beatty (6-2, 195 lbs.), a guard, see the most time at 21 to 22 minutes per game. Miller is more polished on offense, though Beatty is a better outside threat while Miller drives and is much more effective at getting to the line (where he makes just 47 percent). Miller is much more aggressive on the glass and leads the team with 5.7 boards per outing. Beatty can handle the ball, and likes to talk and showcase a flair on he floor. Austin Johnson (6-8, 230 lbs.) is the other backup at forward. The freshman plays 11 minutes, but has taken just 20 shots this year. He is listed as a "passer out of the post," which is usually an indication a player lacks the offensive skill set to score well. An average rebounder, he has twice as many turnovers as assists. He's a minutes stealer of now.


Rugers has better guard play than it has in the past, and that might be an issue for a Mountaineer team that hasn't gotten great play at either end from its guards thus far. West Virginia will likely be pressured at times as a test, and whether Rutgers continues to press and try to pressure the perimeter will be determined by how WVU responds. Look for the Knights to play outside-in on defense and inside-out on offense. This isn't a great shooting team, and it has struggled from the outside. There is athleticism, though, and Rutgers will battle West Virginia on the boards – where they are good on defense but give up a bunch of second chances on offense. Ebanks and Jones could clean-up here, and I isn't likely that shooting percentages will play a major part. His is about WVU's size on offense against Rutgers' guards on defense. The Mountaineers can't get sucked into an up-and-down game, but they have more depth, better skill and might have better overall ability after finally getting a few days to rest and practice. This one could be close – but the bet here is West Virginia gets a win by a good margin.


WVU: G Joe Mazzulla (Shoulder) – Will Play.

RU: F Gregory Echenique (Eye Surgery) – Out for Season.


West Virginia has won 26 games in a row when scoring 70-plus points.

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Da'Sean Butler needs 16 points to pass P.G. Greene and move into he top 10 on the all-time WVU scoring list. Butler has 1,640 points.

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Head coach Bob Huggins has 650 career wins. Of his 60 WVU wins, 25 have been by 20-plus points. He is 7-0 against Rutgers.

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This is only the second road game for Rutgers. The Knights lost at North Carolina. WVU has won 14 of 21 games in the series since the teams joined the Big East.

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