West Virginia looks to earn another tough road win vs. No. 20 Notre Dame
Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 00:02
The West Virginia men's basketball team will try to build on the momentum it captured against Pitt Thursday night when it travels to No. 20 Notre Dame Wednesday night for a critical Big East Conference game.
The Mountaineers, who lost to the Irish 55-51 in Morgantown on Feb. 8, could use a win to help secure a bid into next month's NCAA Tournament.
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said his team, which currently sits as a No. 8 seed in the conference tournament with a 7-7 Big East record, would like to have at least 10 wins to have a chance to secure a bid in the tournament for the fifth straight season.
"I'd feel a whole better with 12 actually," he said.
After Wednesday's game against Notre Dame, West Virginia will host No. 10 Marquette Friday and DePaul next week, before traveling to play South Florida in the regular season finale.
But, a win against Notre Dame won't come easy.
The Irish have won eight straight games, including three straight since its win against the Mountaineers in Morgantown.
"They're playing pretty well. It was heck of a comeback in the Villanova game," Huggins said, referring to Notre Dame's 74-70 overtime comeback win Saturday.
Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley sparked Notre Dame the last time these two teams met on the court going off for 21 points and 12 rebounds.
"He's very efficient. He's a lot like (WVU senior Kevin Jones)," Huggins said. "A lot of what he gets is off the offensive glass. I think sometimes people have to help because of penetration that the two guards get. They are throwing him the ball a little bit more."
Guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, who both scored 12 in the first game, lead the Irish in scoring averaging 13 and 12.9 points, respectively.
Huggins said that his team will have to play at a slower pace, in order to cut down on the number of Notre Dame possessions and scoring ability.
"I don't think you can really speed them up. The people that have tried to speed them up haven't been very successful," Huggins said.
"They have too many guys that can make shots. When you gamble and take chances, they make shots."
In the first meeting between the two teams, West Virginia managed just 16 points in the first half.
"We were awful the first half. We didn't play very well offensively. And we really did a good job the second half to get back in the game," he said. "They made some big shots (at the end). We didn't."
It was also the first game of senior guard Truck Bryant's struggles on the offensive end – which he is still dealing with.
Against Pittsburgh Thursday, Bryant showed a little life coming off the bench to score 15 points and collect seven rebounds.
Huggins said that West Virginia used its weekend off from games wo work on making shots
"We just have to shoot the ball better. It sounds simple. It's not like were not getting pretty good shots," Huggins said.
"We have a tendency to take a play off here and there. When you take plays off, they're going to take advantage of you. "