West Virginia looks to keep tournament hopes alive against Louisville Saturday
Published: Thursday, February 9, 2012
Updated: Friday, February 10, 2012 02:02
The West Virginia men's basketball team is desperate for a win.
So desperate that West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said his team is "going to do everything (it) can possible do to try to win" Saturday's game against Louisville.
Three weeks ago, West Virginia was looking like a lock for the NCAA tournament, but after losing four of its last five, most recently to Notre Dame, the Mountaineers need to start juicing up their tournament resume.
Louisville, who hasn't won in Morgantown since 2009, are winners of five straight, including a 21-point victory against Connecticut.
The Cardinals started the season with 12 straight wins, but then struggled losing five of seven games. They lost to then-No. 12 Georgetown, No. 3 Kentucky, Notre Dame, Providence and No. 22 Marquette.
"Typical of (Louisville head coach Rick Pitino's) teams, they get better at this time of the year," Huggins said,
Kyle Kuric leads Louisville's scoring attack with 13 points per contest, but has three other double-figure scorers to back him up. Russ Smith averages 12.1 points, while Chris Smith and Gorgui Dieng each are scoring 10.4 per contest.
Dieng leads the team with 9.3 rebounds per game.
"They're good. They have great players. They're talented," Huggins said.
Huggins also said Louisville will cause the Mountaineer offense problems because of the different defensive sets it offers.
"They're very versatile defensively," Huggins said. "They can press you, play that 2-3 zone and are very capable of playing man."
The Cardinals are second in the Big East averaging 9.5 steals per game and are first in the league with 26.3 defensive boards per game.
The last five games between the two schools – dating back to 2009 – has been decided by an average of just three points. The Cardinals have won three of the them.
The Mountaineers have a lot of experience in close games this season that could work to their advantage.
West Virginia has played in five overtime games this season – one in double overtime. While the Mountaineers are 4-1 in overtime games, they are just 4-3 in games decided by five points or less.
"We have been in a lot of close games – that's just the nature of our team," Huggins said. "We have a hard time getting away from anybody. We need to make some shots at the end of the game and not turn it over."
Louisville's offense is averaging 71.6 points per game, meaning West Virginia's offense will have to perform better than it did in Wednesday's loss to Notre Dame, where it scored just 55 points.
Senior Truck Bryant, who is second on the team with 16.9 points, scored zero in the loss. Senior Kevin Jones had his nine-game streak
of 20-point performances in the loss, too.
"We have to go back and look at what we did in the (Notre Dame) game," Jones said. "We have to limit our turnovers, or it could get real bad Saturday."
Tip-off for Saturday's game is scheduled for noon.