The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

November 21, 2013

Mountaineers prepare for four-game challenge

MORGANTOWN — They ought to pass out a sombrero to every fan who attends tonight’s 7 o’clock West Virginia University basketball game against Georgia Southern.

Or at least a Corona.

It needs some Mexican flavor, considering it is the first of four games in the Triple Crown Cancun Challenge.

The first two games are at the Coliseum, high-scoring and high-soaring Georgia Southern Eagles followed in by Presbyterian on Saturday before WVU heads down Mexico way to play Old Dominion and then either Wisconsin or St. Louis in Cancun.

This game, while Georgia Southern isn’t the kind of high-profile team you would normally expect to come into the Coliseum and give WVU a strong run, actually offers a lot of intrigue.

The Eagles are one of those high-scoring, guard-oriented teams that seem to fit right in with the new way games in college basketball are being called, sort of the same way WVU does with Eron Harris and Juwan Staten taking charge.

Georgia Southern is 2-1, the two victories against no one you have ever heard of being Taccoa Falls and Columbia International, but the fact that the scores were 104-50 and 110-74 does catch your attention.

And then there’s the lone loss, that coming at Miami, Fla., 81-80 in overtime … which is one big red warning light.

The Eagles offer a pair of players much like Harris and Staten in guards Julani Hewitt and Tre Bussey.

Hewitt averages 25.0 points a game after redshirting last year, while Bussey averages 23.0

Harris is averaging 22.7 for WVU and Staten 20.0.

“We watched a little film on them yesterday. They are a guard-oriented team. They play fast, set a lot of screens and shoot a lot of 3s. That’s not too different than the teams we’ve played already this year,” Staten said, a sentiment that Huggins echoed.

“They are guard-oriented. They took Miami to overtime. It’s going to be a lot like we’ve been playing … a lot of ball screens, spread the floor, shoot a lot of 3s. They are a big transition team,” he said.

“Hewitt’s got great range and showed ability against Miami to create his own shot,” Huggins continued. “Bussey is very solid. I think he’d rather drive it than shoot, but he’s very capable of shooting it.”

Interestingly, for the most part this season, WVU has done a solid defensive job on team’s high scorers but has been hurt by either third- or fourth-top scorers or someone off the bench, the best example being Duquesne, which came into the Coliseum with a pair of high-flying scorers, both of whom were held scoreless in the first half.

Why this is happening, that unexpected scorers are stepping forth, is hard to define.

“I would say we do a great job of listening to the coaches in the scouting report. We have been stopping the players they say we really need to worry about. I guess we don’t pay as much attention to the other guys enough. That’s something we need to pick up,” Staten said. “We’re pleased it isn’t the main guy who is killing us.”

“We don’t continue to play through plays,” was Huggins’ explanation. “We play pretty hard and then figure it’s time for a rest. Teams are good at finding the weak link. When you get tired and get to standing up, we’re just good at getting out of position.”

Huggins isn’t sure he worries about who gets the points.

“It’s the cumulative figure at the end that matters,” he said. “We’ve always told them if a guy comes in averaging 3 an he gets 8, you did a terrible job. We want to hold them below that average, no matter what it may be.”

WVU will go with the same group it has been going with. It has not yet been granted approval to play Jonathon Holton, although Huggins continues to hold out hope he will be cleared.

And they probably will be without guard Gary Browne, who is still hobbled by a deep thigh bruise.

o o o o o o

West Virginia will be one of eight teams in the field for the 2014 Puerto Rico Tip-Off, joining Boston College, College of Charleston, Connecticut, Dayton, George Mason, New Mexico, and Texas A&M. The eighth playing of this annual event will be held Thursday, Friday and Sunday, Nov. 20, 21 and 23, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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