WVU looks to continue winning streak, takes on Virginia Tech for first time since 2004
Published: Friday, December 7, 2012
Updated: Friday, December 7, 2012 00:12
After dropping in-state rival Marshall in a physical contest Wednesday night, the West Virginia men’s basketball team will return home for another rivalry game against Virginia Tech, Saturday at 4 p.m. in the WVU Coliseum.
The Mountaineers’ interstate rivals, the Hokies, come into the contest 7-0 for just the second time since 1982. West Virginia (3-3) struggled to start the year, but has now won two straight games heading into just their second home game of the season.
"I think that’s great for us," said sophomore guard Juwan Staten of the Mountaineers’ two-game winning streak. "We started off struggling a little bit, so anytime we can get a win, it’s great, and especially to have a couple wins going back home. It’s always great to play in front of a home crowd."
Students can still claim tickets to the game, but according to WVU Sports Marketing Director Matt Wells, general admission tickets have been sold out since last week.
West Virginia had four players automatically ejected in the Marshall game after Eron Harris, Jabarie Hinds, Aaric Murray and Terry Henderson sprung to Staten’s aid when he was kicked by Marshall senior center Robert Goff during a tie-up in the game’s closing minutes.
But according to West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins, none of the four players will be forced to miss the Virginia Tech game, because Capital Classic officials ultimately deemed the four WVU players were just tending to their fallen teammate rather than trying to provoke an altercation, though they still had to be ejected for leaving the bench to do so.
"The officials said no," Huggins said. "They were ejected from the game but it has to be a fight situation (to warrant a suspension), which it wasn’t."
The Mountaineers have won 28 of their last 29 non-conference games at home under Huggins and have also won 48 of their last 55 games in December.
West Virginia has held opponents to just 59 points per game in six appearances this season, but the Mountaineers will certainly be tested Saturday by a high-scoring Virginia Tech team that comes into the game as the country’s third-best scoring team, at 86 points per game.
West Virginia has resorted to playing man defense for most of the year, but showed against Marshall that it wouldn’t be afraid to switch to a 1-3-1 zone to cause pressure and force turnovers in certain scenarios.
"We change defenses a lot," Staten said. "So, I guess we just try to go with whatever works. You just try defenses, and whatever is working is what we stay with until they can figure it out. Then we switch to something different."
West Virginia is also
averaging more than 70 points scored per game in its first season in the Big 12 Conference.
According to Huggins, the potential offensive fireworks and a packed house should provide an electric environment Saturday afternoon at the Coliseum.
"Well I think we’ve got a sellout crowd, provided the students come," Huggins said. "I think it’ll be a great atmosphere."
Staten, a transfer from Dayton, said he was actually much more aware of the prevalence of the rivalry with Marshall than with Virginia Tech, but after discussing it with his head coach he became aware Saturday’s game with the Hokies also carries some significant weight.
"I wasn’t really aware of the rivalry with Virginia Tech until Coach Huggs gave us a little bit of background on that," Staten said. "This is a big game coming in. We know that’s it’s been sold out for a while, so that kind of puts it in perspective, too, but they’re a great team.
"They’re undefeated right now, and we’re kind of trying to get back on track, so it’s going to be a great game."