Marquee Match-up

With another name joining Jerry West's in the rafters of the Coliseum and a national television audience looking on, the No. 11 WVU men's basketball team will complete its regular season non-conference schedule with a game against Ohio State on Saturday afternoon.

The No. 33 of former Mountaineer great Hot Rod Hundley will join West's No. 44 as the only two basketball numbers retired at West Virginia.

Hundley, who was already in town and at WVU's practice on Friday afternoon, will receive an honor that head coach Bob Huggins was well-earned by the legendary "Clown Prince of Basketball."

"Rod's a lot of fun to hang out with," said Huggins. "I think it's long overdue, with the career he had -- and not just that, but what he's meant to basketball, certainly in this state. I think with the pride people in this state have that both Rod and Jerry are from here -- it's long overdue and well-deserved."

But the third-year Mountaineer coach will not be on the floor when the ceremony formally happens at halftime of Saturday's game. He'll be busy in the locker room trying to put the finishing touches on a win over the No. 21 Buckeyes.

Ohio State (14-5) comes in playing perhaps its best basketball of the season. Head coach Thad Matta and company have rebounded from a skid that started just as the calendar transitioned to 2010.

OSU lost three out of four contests from Dec. 31 to Jan. 9 -- all on the road -- to Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota. Only a win in Columbus over a struggling Indiana team allowed the squad to avoid a four-game losing streak.

But after the Minnesota loss, Matta got the ship righted.

It started with a surge in the second half at a tough Purdue team, then ranked No. 6 in the country. Ohio State left West Lafayette with a hard-earned 70-66 victory, and has followed that with a win in a rematch with Wisconsin and a 20-point drubbing of Northwestern.

A big part of the Buckeyes' turnaround has been the play of star guard Evan Turner, who had missed a month with a fracture in his back before coming back for the team's win over the Hoosiers on Jan. 6.

"They're averaging about 10 more points per game (since Turner came back) and holding people to like seven or eight less," said Huggins. "He's getting 10 rebounds per game. He's handled the ball and played the point. I think he's averaging five assists a game, so he's contributed to a lot of baskets."

He's scored plenty of his own as well, as the 6-foot-7 junior averages 18.6 points per contest.

But Turner isn't the only threat OSU has. Three other starters also average 13 or more points per game, and the fifth, center Dallas Lauderdale, is still contributing 7.3 and pulling down 4.9 rebounds per contest.

"Everybody they put on the floor scores," Huggins said, succinctly. "Lauderdale is shooting 71 percent from the field. (Jon) Diebler is the all-time leading (high school) scorer in the history of Ohio (he averaged 40 points, 13 rebounds and six assists as a senior at Upper Sandusky High)."

"William Buford (13.1 points, 5.2 rebounds per game) was a McDonald's All-American. (David) Lighty gives them experience, and I think he was the (high school) Player of the Year in Ohio. They've got good players. They've always had good players."

Indeed, that was true of last year's Ohio State squad, which Huggins and company summarily dispatched of in a 76-48 thrashing in Columbus. The Buckeyes were ranked No. 15 in the nation at the time, but WVU served notice that its team would be a force to be reckoned with.

The Mountaineers won't have the services of Alex Ruoff, as the then-senior guard was the star of that game with 17 points. And with Huggins saying this year's OSU team is an entirely different squad, it might not suit West Virginia well to try to apply many of last season's tactics.

"We did a good job effecting their match-up (last year)," said Huggins. "We changed some things right before the game. We went to running more motion and less sets, because I thought they would sit on our sets. So we ran motion to give our guys a lot of freedom. Alex did a great job distributing the ball and reading areas, and Da' did a great job. Everybody kind of played off of those two guys."

"We looked (on film) at some of the things we were able to do a year ago, then we were looking at what they're doing this year. They're a totally different team. We tried to familiarize ourselves with what they like to do."

What the Buckeyes like to do is get the ball to Turner early and often and let other players make plays around him.

"We've got to keep him in front of us and try to make him shoot the ball over top of us," Huggins said. "You can't give him angles. He's really good at finding angles."

And as for any extra motivation OSU might have after taking such a beating in its own building last year? The Mountaineers' head man said his team will just have to deal with it.

"I'm sure they are (wanting revenge for last year)," he said. "Who wouldn't? That's human nature."


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