Mountaineers return to hardwood today
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Perhaps this change of scenery will help West Virginia University's basketball team.
After visiting the snowy northwest and getting hammered by Gonzaga, the Mountaineers (0-1) hit the Sunshine State for a three-game Old Spice Classic stint at the HP Field House at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando.
WVU will play today, Friday and Sunday in the bracket event. The Mountaineers start against 1-2 Marist at noon today on ESPN2. If they win, they'll face the winner of the Vanderbilt-Davidson contest at 12:30 p.m. Friday on ESPN.
"Obviously the tournament is one of the premier tournaments in the country," said WVU coach Bob Huggins. "You look at the teams and the coaches and they're outstanding.
"On one side of the bracket you have Gonzaga, Clemson, UTEP and Oklahoma. Not many tournaments have that."
If you're wondering, both WVU and No. 17 Gonzaga would have to reach the finals for a rematch of the Zags' 84-50 rout.
Straight ahead for West Virginia is a Marist team fulfilling low season expectations. The Red Foxes were a preseason pick to finish eighth in the 10-team Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Marist opened the season with a 60-57 home loss to Stony Brook, followed by a 74-60 road loss to Colgate before winning 67-62 against Columbia in New York City.
"They're fiesty," Huggins said of the Red Foxes. "They'll create mismatches with their [smaller] size, try to spread us and make 3's. They'll force our bigs to go out and defend."
In the victory over Columbia, Marist was led by Chavaughn Lewis, a 6-foot-5, 185-pound sophomore, who had 19 points.
Senior guard Devin Price pitched in 16 points and leads the team in scoring, averaging 14.3 points. Marist does have some size in 6-10 center Adam Kemp, who is averaging 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The goal for West Virginia, however, is to improve its offense. Against Gonzaga, only Aaric Murray hit double figures, recording 14 points.
Huggins said Wednesday that Murray would not be in the starting lineup today. Instead, Kevin Noreen will get the start today in place of Murray and Aaron Brown will start over Matt Humphrey.
Overall, WVU shot a woeful 27.3 percent from the field and 11.5 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. The latter was on 3-of-26 shooting. If you include the Mountaineers' exhibition victory over Glenville State, WVU is 4 for 40 shooting 3-pointers this season.
The most disappointing performance in the Gonzaga game was the 0-for-6 shooting of point guard Juwan Staten, expected to be a leader of the team.
Defensively, WVU allowed the 84 points and 52 percent shooting from the Zags.
If the Mountaineers win, they will face either Vanderbilt of the Southeastern Conference or Davidson of the Southern Conference.
Vandy probably has the higher-profile name, but Davidson might have the better team.
The Commodores were picked in the preseason to finish 10th in the 14-team SEC. Davidson was picked to finish first in the Southern Conference South Division in both the coaches and media polls.
The Wildcats boast the Southern Conference's preseason player of the year in De'mon Brooks, who averaged 15.7 points and 6.2 rebounds as a sophomore. Also on the preseason All-Southern Conference team were Brooks' teammates, Jake Cohen and Nik Cochran.